BY ERIN MADDEN
Franciscan University’s men’s tennis played a strong non-conference match against first-time opponent Otterbein University, losing 5-4.
Otterbein was the winner of the Ohio Athletic Conference (OAC) last year, beating Baldwin Wallace. The Barons lost to Baldwin Wallace 6-3 this season. Coming into the first meeting with Otterbein, the Barons knew it was going to be tough to pull out the win.
“We still need some more match play, need some more practice, to get ready for our tougher matches,” Head Coach Jeremy Ellis said. “In doubles, both our no. 1 and no. 3 need a little bit more time on the court together, but both those matches could have gone either way.”
Winning at no. 2 doubles for the Barons was the freshmen duo of Jarek Sulak and John Gallagher, who pulled out the 8-4 victory. The two freshmen are undefeated in doubles play so far in the early season, despite never playing together before this year.
“I’ve never seen two people gel so well together right from the beginning,” Ellis said. “Their ability together, their energy level, their play is phenomenal. They’ve been very impressive.”
Sulak and Gallagher also won at no. 3 and no. 4 singles, respectively, remaining undefeated in singles play as well. Sulak won 6-0, 3-6, 6-0 while Gallagher won 6-3, 6-4 against the Otterbein Cardinals.
Rounding out the scoring for Franciscan was freshman Mitchell Plys at no. 5 singles. He played a match of comebacks, winning 4-6, 6-2, 11-9. Plys found himself down and out 9-4 in the third set with the tiebreak only going to 10 but was able to pull out the victory.
“Mitch had the match of the match,” Ellis said. “Even though it wasn’t for the win, it brought us to 5-4 instead of 6-3, so that was fantastic.”
The Barons will have a week to get in more playing time before returning to the courts for the first home match against conference opponent Penn St.-Altoona on March 1 at 1 p.m.