STEUBENVILLE - Threatening morning clouds gave way to sunny afternoon conditions, as the Franciscan University men's tennis team defeated visiting Capital University 8-1, over Homecoming weekend.
After scattered morning showers subsided, the Barons took the courts just before 4 p.m. Capital University found themselves able to travel only five men, allowing Franciscan to sport an abbreviated lineup.
Capital forfeited the No. 3 doubles spot, providing Franciscan the corresponding early 1-0 overall match lead. In their first match since participation in the ITA Central Region Championships, No. 1 doubles duo Jake Haffner and Jonathan Walmach made short work of their Capital counterparts. The transfer sophomores wavered briefly in their 8-5 victory, though smart tennis and net closure allowed the Barons to conclude the match on their own terms.
At. No. 2 doubles, seniors Jarek Sulak and John Gallagher quickly went down 2-0, due in large part to inconsistent Gallagher groundstrokes. After surrendering Sulak's serve, the pair broke serve in six points, and subsequently held Gallagher's serve courtesy of Sulak's net play, to level the match at 2-2. Franciscan proved too strong down the stretch, holding Sulak's serve for the first time in the match at 6-4, and subsequently breaking serve to take the match 8-4.
Up 3-0 after the conclusion of doubles play, the Barons shortly found the courts once again, this time for singles. A No. 6 singles forfeit to put the Barons up 4-0, leaving each remaining court fighting for the decisive fifth point. Junior RJ Watson would register that score for the Barons, thanks to a 6-0, 6-0 shutout win over his No. 4 singles opponent. Watson played a complete match from beginning to end, his first on-court action since the onset of the fall season.
Gallagher threatened his opponent's backhand inconsistencies early at No. 2 singles, finally breaking at 3-3 and holding for the 6-3 first set win. Behind shot depth and sheer consistency, especially from the backhand side, Gallagher took the second set 6-1, and the match.
At No. 1 singles, Walmach played perhaps the match of the afternoon. After registering a 6-3 first set win, Walmach saw his opponent lengthen rallies shortly after the onset of the second. A close 6-4 second set didn't go Franciscan's way, and court one was headed for a ten-point deciding tiebreaker. Walmach found a fast 7-4 lead behind unreturnable first and second serves, and after obtaining the mini-break for 9-6, Walmach served the tiebreak, and the match, out for the 10-6 tiebreak conclusion, and the overall match win
After Sulak's match was characterized by solid baseline work despite injury-caused groundstroke and service inconsistencies, eyes turned to No. 5 singles, where Jooste was locked in a baseline battle on the far court. Jooste visibly loosened his playing style as the match progressed, and pulled away late in both sets for the 6-4, 6-3 win.
The Barons' 8-1 victory was their third win of the fall season; they will look to improve to 4-1 when they take on Indiana-East University alongside the Franciscan University women's tennis team, in an October 14 showdown slated to begin at 11 a.m. in Richmand, Indiana.