Men’s Tennis Gains Momentum, Tops No. 35 Hobart


OC Athletics

Sophomore Stephen Gruppuso played a major role in the Yeomen’s victory over No. 35 Hobart College Sunday. Gruppuso and fellow sophomore Camron Cohen won their doubles match in the No. 1 spot 7–5, which gave the team momentum going into singles play.

The men’s tennis team defeated the No. 35 nationally ranked Hobart Statesmen 6–3 Sunday to win their third match in a row, improving to 4–6 on the season. After a brutal opening slate that included four losses in five contests, the Yeomen are finding their rhythm going into spring break and conference play.

“Our doubles were as solid as we’ve had in any team I’ve coached here,” Head Coach Eric Ishida said. “It was just a great team effort. Camron [Cohen] and Stephen [Gruppuso] continued their solid play, and our seniors really handled their matches well. They weren’t easy [matches] at all, and they were able to stay ahead the entire time.”

The Yeomen swept all three doubles matches in the win over Hobart. The battle at the top was hotly contested, as the sophomore duo of Camron Cohen and Stephen Gruppuso defeated Jonah Salita and Alan Dubrovsky 7–5 in a dramatic tiebreaker. The other matches featured identical 8–4 margins of victory, as seniors Michael Drougas and Manickam Manickam took care of business, followed by seniors Levi Kimmel and Robert Gittings. This doubles dominance made all the difference for the Yeomen. Reflecting on his performance, Cohen credited the intensity and energy that he and Gruppuso were able to bring.

“We stayed focused and aggressive the whole match, and in a lot of the important points, the pressure we’ve been working on at the net really helps carry us through,” Cohen said. “We’ve adjusted our game to include more service formations and more aggressive poaching, which has been a huge factor.”

Following doubles play, the Yeomen earned a 3–3 split in the singles competition, clinching the overall victory. Drougas, Cohen, and Gittings all won their matchups over Dubrovsky, David Reinharz, and Joe Mallon respectively. Clutch performances were once again key for the Yeomen, as Drougas and Cohen’s matchups each came down to tiebreakers after both athletes split their first two sets. Cohen’s stellar play in particular did not go unnoticed, as the North Coast Athletic Conference office named him the conference athlete of the week for his efforts against both Hobart and the University of Rochester.

The Yeomen got off to a slow start against tough competition, losing to Division I Cleveland State and DIII schools Kalamazoo College, No. 15 Case Western Reserve University, and No. 9 University of Chicago. However, the team was able to right the ship after collecting wins over Centre and Rochester, before earning their most impressive victory yet on Sunday.

While the easing of the schedule was bound to result in more wins, the team has also been strengthened by these challenges and is gaining confidence with each week.

“I think we learned a lot about our weaknesses and where we need to improve,” Ishida said. “In tennis, you definitely raise your level based on who you’re playing. If you’re overmatched for two weeks in a row, your level of play will rise. It wasn’t immediate, and it took a bit of time to soak in, but we learned how to handle ourselves on the court much better.”

The Yeomen will enjoy next week off from competition before traveling to Orlando, FL, over spring break to face Hamilton College, Washburn University, Grinnell College, and Hamline University over a four-day period. This change of pace will be a prime opportunity for the team to further its growth.

“I’d like to see more team tennis all around,” Ishida said. “Just sticking together and battling — being a cohesive team is very important. Even though the matches are individual, it’s all about really pulling for your teammates and winning for the team. I think that’s the main goal for the spring break trip.”

Once they return to Oberlin, the Yeomen will begin NCAC play in earnest, where the team looks to build on its historic third-place finish from a year ago. The first conference matchup will take place April 7 as the Yeomen travel to The College of Wooster to take on the Fighting Scots.