After winning 11 of its first 12 matches, the men’s tennis team traveled to Texas for a two-match road trip.
The Owls lost to Southern Methodist 7-0 on Wednesday. Two days later, the team lost its second consecutive match, falling 6-1 to Abilene Christian University.
Before the loss to Southern Methodist, the Owls won nine games in a row—their longest streak since the 2013-14 season when the team won seven consecutive games.
This season’s 11-3 start is the best start under coach Steve Mauro since he became head coach in 2005.
“This group plays at a high level, and they have a never-give-up attitude,” Mauro said. “Even though we’re down in a match, this team … is coming out on top. It’s a group that never gives up and fights until the final point. I’ve never had a team that fought like this before.”
The two matches against Southern Methodist and Abilene Christian were the Owls’ first outdoor competitions this season.
Due to the cold weather, the Owls have been practicing and playing indoors. Junior Filip Stipcic said the team had trouble adjusting to warmer conditions in Texas last week.
“We’re basically not used to this weather still because in Philadelphia we practice only indoors and it’s cold,” Stipcic said. “Here it’s sunny, it’s windy and that all influences the tennis game.”
The match against Southern Methodist marked the first time the Owls didn’t total doubles points since losing 4-1 to Belmont University on Jan. 16.
Against Abilene Christian, the Owls lone point came in freshman Artem Kapshuk’s second-flight singles victory.
“He just really fought the whole match,” Mauro said. “He played with a lot of energy and enthusiasm, and I think it really helped carry us through the match.”
The Owls’ nine-game streak began on Jan. 16 with a 3-2 victory against the University of Richmond at the VCU 4+1 Invitational.
After the win against Richmond, the Owls grabbed three shutout victories against La Salle, St. Francis College and Wagner College.
Mauro said the biggest surprises this season are freshmen Florian Mayer, Uladzimir Dorash and Kapshuk.
In the team’s 6-1 win against Quinnipiac University, Mayer and Dorash improved their doubles record to 8-0. In the last two matches, the duo has lost by a combined score of 12-6.
“I just came here two months ago, but I feel pretty confident with him on the court,” Mayer said of Dorash. “I think our style of play fits pretty well in doubles. We have pretty good chemistry on the court.”
On the season, the Owls are 25-15 in doubles matches and 66-38 in singles, with Kapshuk and Dorash leading the team with 11 wins.
Following the two freshmen are seniors Nicolas Paulus with nine wins, Hicham Belkssir with eight, Santiago Canete—who has missed two matches this season—with seven and Stipcic with seven.
After back-to-back losses for the Owls, the team faces a winless University of Delaware on Saturday at the Upper Dublin Sports Complex.
“I’m pretty confident we’ll be good again,” Mayer said. “Obviously most of the players on our team didn’t play what they can and it was difficult to switch from indoors to outdoors. I think we’re going to be back soon.”
Tom Ignudo can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Ignudo5.