NAPLES, Fla. - The Franciscan men's tennis team fell 7-2 on Wednesday to strong Ave Maria opposition, while visiting Florida for their annual spring break practice destination.
After an extensive warm-up concluded by abbreviated lineup introductions, the men took the courts for doubles play. No. 1 doubles pair John Gallagher and Jarek Sulak went down early, struggling against their opponents' aggressive service returns, and their own volley inconsistencies. They managed some momentum behind service holds by both juniors, but ultimately feel 8-2 to the competition.
Senior David Freytag and freshman Jack Galla seemed determined to even the match at No. 3 doubles. The duo held a three-game lead at the 5-2 changeover, before things got tight at 7-6. Freytag served well when it mattered, registering two aces in his final service game to give Franciscan the 8-6 win.
No. 2 doubles pair Connor Jooste and RJ Watson played a close match from start to finish. A single game was all that separated the Barons from their Ave Maria opponents for the majority of the match, before momentum carried the Gyrenes to an 8-6 victory.
Down 2-1 after the conclusion of doubles, the Barons looked to regroup during singles play. Gallagher was the first to leave his court after fighting the winds in his 6-0, 6-2 loss. The junior struggled with first serve consistency and footwork against a No. 2 singles opponent who outlasted his baseline game.
After taking his first set 6-2, team captain Freytag found games harder to come by in the second set, one which he lost in a tiebreak. The senior's late rally from 8-5 in his third set tiebreak wasn't enough for the win in his 6-2, 6-7(2), 10-7 loss, despite his high quality of play that made for an entertaining match from start to finish.
Sulak looked to bounce back from uncharacteristic volley inaccuracies during doubles play against a strong No. 1 singles opponent. For much of the match, Sulak did just that: behind patient serve-and-volley tactics and depth on his groundstrokes, the junior let his passion for the game show in his 6-3, 6-4 loss.
Jooste admitted that his decisive 6-4, 6-2 victory against a talented No. 5 singles opponent was the best he's played so far in the spring season. The junior screamed several improved serves past a frustrated Ave Maria counterpart, and encouraged by his teammates, pulled away when it mattered for the win.
A loss by Galla at No. 6 singles and a statement win by freshman Walter Matt in an exhibition No. 7 singles match capped the day's events. The men will remain in Florida to train for the remainder of spring break, returning to campus on Saturday. Their next home match pits them against tough non-conference opponent Mount Union at 3:30 p.m. on Monday, March 20.