By ERIN O’BOYLE
After coming off a two-week hiatus, the Drake Men’s Tennis team is ready to get back out on the courts. The last we heard from the Bulldogs was a tough loss to Vanderbilt during the ITA Kick-off weekend tournament in Norman, Oklahoma. Returning back to the Roger Knapp Tennis Center, the Men’s tennis team will host eight different teams over the course of two weeks. The first of those eight matches was against Dartmouth College on Sunday, Feb. 10 at 11 a.m.
Dartmouth faced the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities Gophers two days prior to making the trip to the Drake. They were defeated by the Gophers in a bad loss of 7-0. Although the Dartmouth men’s tennis team lost, there is still something to be said for the fact that they have played a match in the last two weeks. Due to scheduling, the Drake men’s tennis team has yet to face an opponent since Jan. 27.
Regarding the team’s physical and mental preparation after such a long break senior Vincent Gillespie said, “The team spirit is very high and after a couple of tough defeats in Oklahoma and some time off, the boys are ready to get back into the Roger Knapp center.” The Bulldog’s hold a 4-2 record going into the match against Dartmouth, who have a 2-2 record as of now.
The Dartmouth match won’t come easy seeing as “The Big Green” have three players that have been nationally ranked on the ITA Division I rankings that were released late last fall. Singles player Charlie Broom and doubles players Dan Martin and John Speicher were the big players to watch on Sunday. Although Drake is not ranked in the singles category, they are ranked in the doubles category with Vincent Gillespie and Barnaby Thorold at the 27th spot whereas the Dartmouth doubles team is at the 52nd spot. One half of Drake’s all-star doubles team, Vinny Gillespie, who also plays at No. 1 singles as well as No. 1 doubles with Thorold, commented on this ranking.
“I have started off the season playing at the No. 1 spots,” Vinny Gillespie said. “I feel a lot of pressure at this position, but it only makes me play better. I hope this gives the other guys confidence to play well at their spots too.”
As one of five seniors on the team, Gillespie is not only Drake’s No. 1 player, but also a mentor for the five underclassmen who look up to him and the other seniors on the team. Especially since four out of the five underclassmen are international students just like Gillespie, who is originally from Scotland.
“We have five seniors on the team this year and so they all give the team a lot of experience, which of course helps us out,” junior Barnaby Thorold said. “The lower classmen, including myself, can learn a lot from them.”
With only 11 men on the roaster, it’s no surprise that with all the time they spend together the Drake men’s tennis team is close.
“The program really makes us become a great team,” Gillespie said. “We are a very close knit group of guys and I feel like this helps us significantly on the court.”
In the coming weeks, the Bulldogs are scheduled to play matches against big schools such as Utah State University, Indiana University, University of Oregon, the University of Nebraska and many more. One can stop by the Roger Knapp Tennis Center to support the Drake men’s tennis team or stream live videos of their matches on their YouTube channel.