Photo gallery (courtesy of Steve Kelley)
Thirteen years and 110 matches. That’s how long it had been since the Drew University men’s tennis team had lost to a conference opponent. Then they faced The University of Scranton on Thursday evening.
The Royals rallied from a 3-0 deficit after doubles to stun the Rangers, 5-4, at Royal Courts at DeNaples Fields, ending one of the most impressive streaks in college tennis. Drew’s streak stretched all the way back to the spring of 2000 and included 12 straight conference championships.
And it all ended in dramatic fashion on Thursday.
After Scranton rallied from its doubles deficit, the match came down to first and third singles, where the Royals dropped the first set in both and found themselves in second-set tiebreaks in both. Senior Tim McGurrin (Clarks Summit, Pa./Scranton Preparatory) rallied to force a third set against Drew senior Raul Smego (Ponce, Puerto Rico/Academia Cristo Rey), who also entered unbeaten in conference play. McGurrin jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the third set, then held on to defeat Smego, 2-6, 7-6 (7-3), 6-4, to draw the Royals even at 4.
One court over, senior Joe Morra (Bronx, N.Y./Fordham Preparatory) also found himself in a third set showdown against Drew senior Djedjy Hill (Haiti/Rancocas Valley Regional) after winning a second-set tiebreak. With both players battling cramps, Morra outlasted Hill, 4-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-3, to give the Royals the victory and end the Rangers’ historic run.
After falling in that early deficit in doubles play, Scranton (5-4, 4-1 Landmark) rallied to get within 4-3 to set up the heroics by McGurrin and Morra. Junior David Teres (Lebanon, N.J./North Hunterdon) and senior Mike Pannone (Maplewood, N.J./Seton Hall Preparatory) got things started with wins at No. 2 and No. 4 singles, respectively. Teres defeated freshman Hunter Lathrop (South Londonberry, Vt./Stratton Mountain School), 6-1, 6-4, handing Lathrop his first conference loss of the year. Pannone rolled to a 6-1, 6-0 victory over senior Matt Imbo (Islip, N.Y./Islip).
The Royals also received a 6-3, 6-3 win from senior Bennett Kelley (Pennington, N.J./Hopewell Valley Central) over Drew sophomore Tommy Butschi (Tyler, Texas/New Braunfels) at fifth singles. But the Rangers (8-6/5-1 Landmark) got a 7-6 (10-8), 6-0 at sixth singles from freshman Adam Clark (Fremont, Calif./John F. Kennedy) over Royals junior James Dalkiewicz (Shavertown, Pa./Lake-Lehman).
The win moves the Royals a half-game behind the Rangers in the standings, but more importantly, it means if they can win their final two Landmark matches, the Royals will have home-court advantage in next week’s conference playoffs. Scranton needs a win in one of its two final matches to secure a playoff berth.
Scranton returns to the courts on Saturday, April 20, when it travels to Kings Point, N.Y. to take on Merchant Marine Academy at 1 p.m. The Royals will conclude the regular season when they host Goucher on Sunday, April 21, at 1 p.m. at Royal Courts.