OBERLIN, OH - The Franciscan University men's tennis team lost 8-1 to Oberlin College and 7-2 to Baldwin Wallace University in a Saturday afternoon doubleheader, as the team readies itself for a stretch of conference matches set to begin in early March.
Play began just after 2:30 p.m. against Oberlin College. Doubles was first to take the court; No. 1 doubles pair Jarek Sulak and John Gallagher found themselves in a close match on court one. The team traded service breaks with their opponents at 5-5 before losing a close match, 8-6.
On court three, senior David Freytag and freshman Walter Matt kept the match close with consistent service games. Down a break for the majority of the match, the No. 3 doubles team held Matt's service game, then broke back to gain a 7-6 lead. Matt sliced a backhand winner up the doubles alley to cause match point, before Freytag ended any Oberlin comeback hopes with an unreturnable first serve, giving Franciscan the 8-6 win.
After No. 2 doubles duo RJ Watson and Connor Jooste surrendered an 8-4 loss, the Barons took the court for singles.
Connor Jooste rode service holds to a first set tiebreak at No. 5 singles; the junior lost his tiebreak 7-5, and the second set 6-1. Gallagher lost at No. 2 singles 6-3, 6-3, and Sulak surrendered his No. 1 singles match 6-4, 6-2, while on court three, Freytag gave his opponent all he could handle. The senior couldn't manage to bring the match to a tiebreak despite two set points, losing 6-2, 7-5.
With one match in the books, the Barons had a short respite before the arrival of Baldwin Wallace. After an abbreviated warm-up, match play began at 5:30 p.m. Freytag and Matt found points hard to come by at No. 3 doubles, surrendering a quick match 8-1. After achieving a 2-1 lead, Watson and Jooste lost six straight games, winning two more before losing their match 8-4.
Sulak and Gallagher mounted a 5-2 lead at No. 1 doubles before Baldwin Wallace broke Sulak's serve and held to 5-4. A changeover and a Gallagher hold later, Franciscan held a slim 6-4 advantage over the Yellowjackets. Imprecise volleys from Baron rackets kept the opposition in the match, before Sulak and Gallagher broke serve for the 8-6 win, their first on the season.
Singles play commenced, and Gallagher surrendered a quick 6-0, 6-0 loss at No. 2 singles. The story was different on court one, where after a 6-1 first set loss, Sulak improved his baseline mobility behind quality serves to take a 5-4 lead in the second. Despite improved groundstroke depth, he was unable to capitalize on set point, losing the second set 7-5.
With parents watching, Freytag's choice shot variety was a high point in is 6-4, 6-1 No. 3 singles loss. The senior's drop shot was the best it's been all year, and his intelligent serve and volley mechanics will prove a positive as conference play looms.
"David is playing some great tennis right now" remarked head coach Scott Greve. "He's probably 8-10 points away from being undefeated in singles."
No. 6 singles was the story of dedication, a match Greve called "one of the gutsiest performance I've ever seen." His fourth match of the day, Matt's 6-4, 6-4 win came despite obvious fatigue. He rode flat forehands and volley winners to success, giving Franciscan their second victory in a 7-2 defeat.
"The high energy from everybody today was definitely the most positive thing about the match" said Greve. "Everybody stayed energetic; you could really see the energy move the guys throughout the doubles matches."
Greve said he expects the Barons' difficult season thus far to make for "great tennis moving into conference." The Barons next take the court March 4 at 5:00 p.m. against conference opponent Penn.-State Altoona.