ROBINSON, Pa. - Behind a clutch third set tiebreaker from senior Connor Jooste at No. 4 singles, the Franciscan men's tennis team earned a 5-4 victory over Ohio Northern University, leveling their season record at 1-1.
Captain Jarek Sulak and sophomore Jake Haffner earned their first win of the spring season, downing their No. 1 doubles counterparts 8-6. A single break of serve earned the Barons the victory, in a match that came down to the wire. Haffner's well-executed net play was complemented by Sulak's solid serves, especially in the match's late games.
Jooste and senior John Gallagher couldn't convert either match point late in their doubles tiebreaker, losing 9-8, in a No. 2 doubles match that nevertheless saw both players continue to develop on-court chemistry. Gallagher's solid service returns paired well with Jooste's dominant net play, as together they erased a 7-4 deficit, but couldn't record the win down the stretch.
At No. 3 doubles, sophomore Jack Galla and freshman Luke Conrad went up 6-3 on the third court, as the duo translated aggression into games during the match's early goings. The two meshed well on-court, but lost a series of key points late in the match, surrendering an 8-6 loss.
Down 2-1 after the conclusion of doubles play, the Barons regrouped and took the courts for singles. At the No. 3 spot, Gallagher won a deuce point for a 5-3 first set lead and took the set a game later. Gallagher went down 3-2 in the second set but rattled off four straight games for the 6-3, 6-2 win.
Recording his first collegiate tennis win, freshman Giorgio Alexander made his No. 6 singles start count, keeping his shots deep to his opponent's forehand side. His execution only improved as the match progressed, a product of smart tennis and baseline consistency. He outlasted his opponent for the 6-4, 7-5 win.
Haffner registered his first singles win of the season, downing his No. 1 singles counterpart 6-1, 7-6, taking groundstrokes on the rise. He took time away from his opponent, drawing him off the court and playing well in pressure points, for the team's fourth overall point of the match.
After singles specialist Walter Matt saw a close match slip away in a second set, despite solid serves and first volleys in his No. 5 singles match, all eyes turned to the final match the evening. With both teams tied at 4 matches apiece, the winner of Jooste's No. 4 singles showdown would decide the entirety of the match.
Jooste took command of his first set tiebreaker at 6-3, taking the first set two points later. The second set remained close down the stretch, characterized by frequent holds of serve and punctual baseline play. Jooste would lose the second set after finding himself on the short end of a 7-1 tiebreaker score; the match was headed to a 10-point tiebreaker, to decide the evening's outcome.
Down 5-2 in the tiebreaker, Jooste found form, winning big points en route to a 10- tiebreaker win that ultimately gave Franciscan the overall 5-4 victory on the day. Jooste capitalized on untimely errors from his opponent to take three out of the final tiebreaker points, sealing the win.
After the match, North American native and conditioning authority Stephen Bolster commented: "I saw a lot of positives out there on the court today."
The Barons will travel to Wheeling, West Virginia next Thursday, for a 5 p.m. showdown with Bethany College.