By ERIN O’BOYLE
After eight straight home matches, the Drake men’s tennis team hit the road this past weekend to take on Oral Roberts University, Wichita State University on Friday in Wichita, Kansas and the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis on Sunday.
“I think a lot of us have been here long enough to have played enough away matches to know the procedure but still every road match is going to be tough,” senior Calum MacGeoch said about how traveling impacts the teams’ performance. “There’s no home crowd, you spend a lot of time on the road and in the bus which can be a little draining but we normally go a day or two early so everyone is accustomed is well rested and used to the courts. We do play at altitude sometimes so that’s different as the ball travels faster so it takes a little longer to get used to that.”
After their wins at home two weekends ago, the Bulldogs went into their away matches being bumped from No. 46 to No. 43 in ITA national rankings.
Friday morning the Bulldogs faced the Oral Roberts’ Golden Eagles in their only Summit League match-up of the weekend.
No. 1 singles Vinny Gillespie defeated his opponent in set scores of 6-1 and 6-3.
Gillespie and Ben Clark were set to play No. 1 doubles, but their match against the Golden Eagles was never played. No. 2 singles Tom Hands, who was again named Summit League Men’s Tennis Athlete of the Week for a second week in a row, won his match in set scores of 6-1 and 6-3, as well. Junior Barnaby Thorold won at No. 3 singles in 6-3, 6-2 set scores. No. 5 singles Calum MacGeoch won in both sets 6-2 and then went on to win at No. 3 doubles with Hands in a set score of 6-4. Ben Clark, at No. 6 singles, was also victorious against his opponent in set scores of 6-1 and 6-2. No. 2 doubles, consisting of Bayo Philips and Finley Hall, secured the win in a 6-4 set score and thus contributing to the 6-1 win for the Bulldogs.
Later that day, the Drake men’s tennis team faced No. 44 nationally ranked Wichita State. Gillespie at No.1 singles fought long and hard against his Wichita State counterpart and ended up pulling out the win after a successful first set that ended in a 6-4 score, a loss in the second set that flipped the score 4-6, and then a 6-2 win in the third set that gave Gillespie the win for the Bulldogs. Thorold, at No. 3 singles, left his match with the lead, but ultimately unfinished. No. 4 singles, Bayo Philips was the only other Bulldog to claim a win over the Wichita State Shockers. In another hard-fought match, Philips won the first set 6-4, loss the second set 4-6, and won the third set tiebreaker 7-5. No. 3 doubles, MacGeoch and Hands, also left their match unfinished and thus leaving the Bulldogs with no wins in the double’s category. A 2-4 loss against Wichita State left the Bulldogs spilt 1-1 during their time in Kansas and on to Minnesota to face the No. 17 nationally ranked Gopher’s in Minneapolis.
“We battled hard on Saturday against Wichita, we didn’t have a great start but ended up in five 3rd setters but were unable to convert some close sets,” MacGeoch said. “A big factor of that was our energy, we were a little flat at the start of singles after a very close doubles point which didn’t help our start but we picked it backup and that definitely put us in some winnable positions. As for our match against Minnesota, they’re a tough team that we are familiar with but we have to go out with confidence and a lot of energy and put on a good performance at every spot.”
The Bulldogs faced the University of Minnesota Gophers at 3 p.m. on Sunday afternoon in Minneapolis. The Bulldogs lost to Minnesota, winning only one point for the match which game from a huge upset by Vinny Gillespie at No. 1 singles. Gillespie, ranked at No. 72 individually, beat Minnesota’s Josip Krstanovic who is ranked at No. 38 in the individual rankings. Gillespie lost in the first set 5-7, made a major come back in the second set with a set score of 6-2, and then finished off the match strong with a 6-3 3rd set score. Gillespie also partnered with Thorold to win at No. 1 doubles in a set score of 6-3.
The Bulldogs couldn’t get the momentum they needed to secure the win against the Gophers and ended their time in Minneapolis with 1-6 match score and an overall season record of 11-6.
The Bulldogs will continue on the road with their next match on Friday against the University of Iowa in Iowa City. The Drake men’s tennis team will then travel to Kalamazoo, Michigan on Sunday morning to face Western Michigan University and immediately after travel to East Lansing, Michigan to face Michigan State University Sunday evening.