Men’s Tennis Splits Heading into NCAC Tournament


Photo courtesy of OC Athletics

The men’s tennis team, led by four seniors, will look to get revenge against the sixth-seeded DePauw University — who knocked them out of the NCAC Tournament last year — today at 9 a.m. in Indianapolis.

The No. 37 men’s tennis team finished the regular season with a pair of matches last weekend, easily dispatching the Allegheny College Gators 8–1 Saturday and dropping a close contest to the No. 28 Denison University Big Red 6–3 Sunday. The Yeomen enter the North Coast Athletic Conference Tournament as the third seed behind Kenyon College and Denison with a record of 9–9.

In the first matchup Saturday, the Yeomen dominated the Gators in singles play, winning all six pairings. Sophomore Camron Cohen and first-year Elliot Nuss were especially impressive, beating their opponents 6–0, 6–1 and 6–0, 6–0, respectively. The Yeomen also won two of the three doubles pairings, as the senior duos of Manickam Manickam and Michael Drougas, and Robert Gittings and Levi Kimmel took care of business right away.

“We came out with a lot of intensity,” Kimmel said. “We played our way and didn’t let them lower our level of play. We’re just refocusing this week, trying to tune everything up for the tournament.”

The team was unable to outlast Denison in the second match, but strong performances from several athletes kept the Yeomen competitive throughout. Sophomore Stephen Gruppuso was a particular standout, outlasting Mitchell Thai in three sets (3–6, 6–3, and 7–5). In doubles play, Gruppuso and Cohen teamed up in the top set and won by an 8–2 margin. Gittings also added a victory, taking his matchup 6–4, 6–3. However, the Big Red swept the remaining pairings, despite spirited three-set efforts from Manickam and sophomore Zachary Vaughn. Even so, Head Coach Eric Ishida said that his team can hang with anyone and is ready for the tournament.

“We’re not far off,” Ishida said. “A few points here and there, and that’s a very different match. There were a few points early on in doubles that we were on the wrong side of, and that helped Denison grab momentum. We have continued to raise our level throughout the year, and we didn’t feel that we were the underdog. We have a lot more experience than they do, and we prepared well, but we couldn’t quite close.”

Gruppuso and Cohen, who took the sole doubles loss in the Allegheny match, said that the disappointment from that performance fueled their strong showing against Denison.

“It was a wake-up call for us to start working more as one unit,” Gruppuso said. “For the majority of the season, we weren’t necessarily playing together. There was virtually no communication mid-point and [a] lack of synchronized movement up and back from the net. Sunday was a huge adjustment and a step in the right direction for the future of our doubles play together.”

Gruppuso also credited Assistant Coach Ian Paik, OC ’17, for his singles victory.

“I went down 3–5 in the third set, and Coach Paik approached me on the court and provided me with a point-by-point strategy in order to overcome one of the best freshmen in the NCAC,” Gruppuso said.

The Yeomen enter the NCAC Tournament with significant momentum, winning four of their final six matches, with the only losses coming to Denison and top-seeded Kenyon. The team will travel to Indianapolis to take on the sixth-seeded DePauw University Tigers today, who eliminated Oberlin in the semifinals last year. The Tigers are weaker this year, finishing with a 5–16 overall record, but the Yeomen know they can’t overlook any opponent at this stage.

“DePauw is definitely known for their doubles,” Ishida said. “Historically they’ve been very strong. They got up on us last year 3–0, so we’re hoping that we can take control of the match early, because I like how our singles guys are competing right now. I think that’s the secret: being prepared, being intense, and jumping on them in doubles.”

Gruppuso said that he has the utmost confidence in his teammates and himself to get the job done against the Tigers and make it further into the tournament than last year.

“We feel pretty confident about our matchups this weekend,” Gruppuso said. “Having another opportunity to play against DePauw this year after our loss to them in the semifinals last season [motivated] all of us to have a strong week of practice and mental preparation. Sunday proved to us that we are more than able to compete with the [top-ranked] competitors in the conference.”

The tournament begins 9 a.m. at the Barbara S. Wynee Tennis Center in Indianapolis today. Should Oberlin outlast DePauw, they will likely earn a rematch with second-seeded Denison.