BY ERIN MADDEN
Franciscan University men’s tennis saw strong play from its freshmen in a competitive 5-4 loss to perpetual powerhouse Mount Union in the team’s first home match.
“Mount Union has always been a tough team,” Head Coach Jeremy Ellis said. “Almost every time we’ve played them, we’ve been this tight. We’ve had long matches that go forever. It’s just good to see that we are still at that caliber, having a lot of freshmen.”
Freshmen Jarek Sulak and John Gallagher were able to give the Barons a 2-1 lead after doubles play by securing the 9-7 win at no. 2 doubles. The last three games of that particular match were intense with two consecutive breaks before Franciscan was able to hold serve on Gallagher’s racket to pull out the win.
“Going up 2-1 in doubles is huge,” Ellis said. “I tell the guys any time we get ready for doubles that I want to win two out of three. Jarek and John were a little hesitant there, going back and forth, but they pulled it together when it mattered.”
Another pair of freshmen was able to win at no. 3 doubles despite playing together for the first time. New partners Mitchell Plys and Connor Jooste played from out front for the entire match, eventually winning 8-5 for Franciscan’s first point on the afternoon.
Plys was able to carry over his strong play in doubles to win at no. 5 singles 6-1, 6-2, keeping Franciscan in the match at that point, tied at three.
“Mitch played fantastic in doubles and in singles,” Ellis said. “He went out after doubles and stayed just as confident in singles, so Mitch had a great day.”
The match of the day belonged to Sulak at no. 3 singles, losing the first set and down three games in the final set to win in a tiebreak 6-7(9), 6-2, (7)7-6. While Mount Union had already won the overall match, Sulak’s win brought the final score to 5-4, showing just how fierce the competition was between the two teams.
“Jarek pulling out that marathon match was big for him,” Ellis said.
The freshmen look to continue their impressive play to lead Franciscan to their fourth conference championship in five years and their third consecutive NCAA tournament appearance.