With 13-2 record, men's tennis has best start in program history

by Caitlyn McGovern | 3/5/18 2:05am

030518_morgan_mtennis

Last year, the men's tennis team finished with an 11-14 overall record, and this season, the team boasts a 13-2 record.

Source: Courtesy of Dan Martin

After a historic start to the 2017-2018 season, the Dartmouth men’s tennis team is on track to continue its success through the spring. The team ended its winter season with a 13-2 overall record. Currently, the team is ranked No. 19 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, having lost only to then-unranked Iowa and No. 46 Old Dominion University.

The men are led by head coach Chris Drake, who is in his eighth season at the helm of the program. Going into this season, Drake held an overall Dartmouth coaching career record of 101-64 and an Ivy League record of 28-21. He was honored as Coach of the Year for the 2015-2016 season.

“I think one of the things we’ve done well this year is we’ve been very mentally tough and competitive throughout our lineup,” Drake said. “We haven’t really had any holes in our lineup where guys aren’t competing at the level we expect them to.”

The success of the team can also be attributed to the depth of its players.

“There have been matches where we’ve done well at the top of the lineup, there have been matches where we’ve done well in the middle and the bottom and same thing with our doubles,” Drake said. “I think if you look at the records, all the guys have played pretty well and we have some guys that haven’t played as many matches that are really good players as well.”

Sophomore standout Charlie Broom ’20 has continued forward with the momentum from his freshman season, where he climbed to the No. 1 singles position on the team after starting in the fourth slot. Broom ended the 2016-2017 season 23-6 in singles and 18-7 in doubles.

Broom was named ITA Northeast Region Rookie of the Year last season, the first Big Green player to be recognized with the award. His outstanding performance also earned him the title of Ivy League Rookie of the Year, which Dartmouth players have won in three of the past four years, and a spot on the All-Ivy First Team.

Broom said he noticed differences between his freshman and sophomore seasons.

“I struggled with balancing the work and the tennis a little bit last year, and I think this year I’ve stayed a little bit more on top of that,” Broom said. “I think that’s just allowed me to perform better on the court.”

Nearly half of the 12-man team is made of first-years, with Peter Conklin ’21, Gilbert Jaeger ’21, Dan Martin ’21, Casey Ross ’21 and John Speicher ’21 bringing young talent to the court. Conklin was the New England sectional doubles champion and a member of the United States Tennis Association junior leadership team; Jaeger claimed the Swedish national doubles championship title twice; Martin took home bronze at the U18 Canadian Championship; Ross was the No. 1 ranked player in Colorado and won the state’s championship in singles twice, winning four state titles for his high school along the way; and Speicher was ranked 34th in the nation.

Hailing from Webster, New York, Speicher made his Dartmouth debut this season, and has gone 18-5 so far. Speicher is optimistic about the season so far and the dynamics of the team.

“I think the team gets along really well, and we’re really close, so I think it just builds a lot of trust with each other and we can work together as a team,” he said.

At the Eastern College Athletic Conference Indoor Championship held at Yale University from Feb. 16 to Feb. 18, the Big Green claimed the title for the first time after defeating Harvard University 4-1 in its final matchup. While then-No. 19 Broom and David Horneffer ’20 were unable to beat the Crimson in No. 1 doubles, the Big Green defeated Harvard in the second and third slots. In singles, No. 3 Horneffer, No. 4 Max Fliegner ’18 and No. 5 Ciro Riccardi ’18 were victorious. While Martin lost in No. 2 and Broom and Conklin did not finish, the team was still able to clinch the title.

“Last year, we felt more pressure, but this year we didn’t feel any pressure going into anything,” Broom said. “[We] didn’t have any expectations, and we just sort of took each match as it came and learned from each match. Even though we were winning, there were still things we needed to improve upon and we worked on that in the week during training.”

Against Iowa on Feb. 24, the team fell 4-3 in its first loss of the season. Then-No. 17 Broom and Horneffer lost 7-5 in the No. 1 doubles slot and Roko Glasnovic ’19 and Ross lost 6-3, while Fliegner and Conklin defeated Iowa in the No. 3 position. In singles, Iowa claimed victory in the No. 1, 4 and 6 positions, while Horneffer, Fliegner and Conklin were able to hold strong for the Big Green in the No. 2, 3 and 5 positions, respectively.

The team looked to rebound against Old Dominion on Feb. 25 but fell short at 4-1. Broom and Horneffer fell short in the No. 1 doubles at 7-5, but Glasnovic and Ross were able to secure a 6-3 win in the No. 2 slot. Fliegner and Conklin helped put Dartmouth ahead by one by defeating the Big Blue 7-5 in the No. 3 position.

While it was a close match, the team was not able to hold its lead through the singles matches. Broom fell 6-2 and 6-1 in the No. 1 slot; Martin lost 7-5 and 7-5 in the No. 2 position; and Horneffer came short at 6-1 and 7-5 in No. 3. Fliegner and Conklin did not finish their matches in the No. 4 and No. 6 slots respectively and Riccardi fell 6-3 and 6-1 in the No. 5 position.

Drake took the loss as a learning opportunity for the team to continue its success for the remainder of the season.

“I think Old Dominion played great, probably the best tennis we’ve seen all year, and I think we’re definitely very motivated to play,” Drake said. “I think having a bit of a target on your back with the ranking we have been getting used to how well teams are gonna play when they play us, but I don’t think we were overly focused on our ranking or our kind of undefeated start to the year.”

Despite the losses, Broom stayed optimistic about the growth of the team for the remainder of the season.

“While those losses were disappointing, I think it’s actually going to be good for us going forward [in the season],” Broom said. “We’re playing some really good teams over spring break and we could easily be in that situation again. We’re going to be ready for it, we’re going to be prepared.”

Looking ahead, the team will be taking on No. 15 Oklahoma State University in two weeks.

“Oklahoma State is a great team,” Drake said. “They are ranked No. 15, but they are probably a top 10 level in the country team. That will be a good test and Wichita State and the University of Memphis after that are very strong teams too, so it’ll be a good challenge that week.”

Overall, the men’s tennis team looks to refocus itself from recent losses and shift the momentum back in its favor after a strong 12-0 start.