Photo: Connor McCourtney
Drake posted a perfect 4-0 record over Spring Break. The Bulldogs posted wins over Saint Louis, the University of Alabama-Birmingham and Murray State, but the trip down south was highlighted by a 4-3 win over the Memphis Tigers that pushed the team all the way into a No. 71 spot on the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s national rankings.
The Bulldogs started off their trip in St. Louis against the Billikens. The team’s first outdoor match of the season was a brief one, as the Drake squad clearly had more talent throughout its doubles and singles lineups.
Drake swept the three opening doubles matches, as the team lost only seven games in total throughout all three matches. Senior Mauricio Ballivian and sophomore Anis Ghorbel played at the top spot for the Bulldogs and posted an 8-3 win, which was matched at No. 3 doubles by sophomore Ryan Drake and freshman Robin Goodman. Sophomores James McKie and Jean Erasmus made quick work of their opponents at No. 2 doubles with an 8-1 victory.
The squad was equally dominant in singles, as Ballivian, McKie and Goodman were able to rush out to precise wins and clinch the match at 4-0. Drake was within reach of victory at the three remaining singles positions, but the coaches agreed to end the match as the result was already determined.
The team then travelled to Birmingham, Ala., to take on the Blazers of UAB. The Blazers provided stiffer competition than Saint Louis, but the Bulldogs claimed a 5-2 victory. The Drake squad started out the match in familiar fashion by winning the doubles point after Ballivian and Ghorbel as well as Erasmus and McKie posted wins at first and second doubles, respectively.
Drake extended its lead to an insurmountable 4-0 soon after singles began on the strength of straight-set victories by Goodman, Ghorbel and Erasmus at the fifth, fourth and second spots, respectively. UAB took one of its two matches against junior Jonathan Hadash, who retired in the third set. McKie pushed Drake’s lead to 5-1 after a three-set win at No. 3 singles, but UAB took another match over Ballivian to settle the final score at 5-2 in favor of the Bulldogs.
Next, the Bulldogs travelled to Memphis, Tenn., to take on the Memphis Tigers. Memphis had been ranked as high as No. 53 in the nation earlier this year, but the team has since dropped out of the national rankings. Nonetheless, Drake’s epic 4-3 win over the Tigers is arguably the most impressive win of the season so far.
Unlike previous victories, the Bulldogs failed to capture the doubles point against the Tigers. The only victory was by Ballivian and Ghorbel, who have once again cracked the national doubles rankings, resting at No. 72. The duo won 8-5, but the remaining two doubles teams weren’t so fortunate. Drake and Goodman lost 5-8, while McKie and Erasmus lost 6-8.
The Bulldogs’ situation started to look grim in singles as well, as all six players lost the first set in their matches. The Tigers were merely six sets away from capturing a 7-0 sweep of the Bulldogs, but Drake mounted an epic comeback sparked by Ghorbel’s play at the No. 4 position. After losing the first set 2-6, Ghorbel turned the match around and lost only three more games throughout the match as he took the next two sets 6-3 and 6-0.
The Tigers responded with a win over McKie at No. 2 singles. Down 1-2, the Bulldogs captured the next three matches to clinch the match. Ballivian, Goodman and Erasmus each lost their first sets in tiebreakers, but came out in the deciding sets in dominant fashion to provide the squad with a match worthy of a national ranking.
The Bulldogs capped the trip with a 6-1 victory over Murray State in Murray, Ky. Drake swept the doubles matches and won five of the six singles matches. The match also marked the return of junior Cesar Bracho, who missed most of last year and much of this season due to injury.
Drake will begin Missouri Valley Conference play this Saturday against the Creighton Bluejays in Omaha, Neb.
The Drake women’s tennis team won half of its matches during its Spring Break trip to Orlando, Fla., last week, posting victories over Bucknell and Fairleigh Dickinson.
The Bulldogs started their four-match trip against Coastal Carolina University in their first outdoor match this spring season. Drake was dealt a 1-6 defeat by Coastal Carolina, but Drake’s lone senior Jessica Labarte put in a strong performance in both doubles and singles.
Labarte teamed up with junior Amanda Aragon to win 8-2 at the third doubles slot, but the remaining teams of Jess Aguilera and Manca Krizman, and Gabby Demos and Klavdija Rebol couldn’t garner victories.
Coastal Carolina extended its lead to 4-0 by defeating Rebol, Krizman and Ali Patterson before Labarte put Drake on the scoreboard. Labarte’s straight-set win made her perfect on the day, but Aguilera and Aragon also dropped their matches to fill out the final score.
Next, Drake battled Jacksonville for the first time in school history. Despite dominating doubles, the Bulldogs dropped all six singles matches to lose 1-6.
Drake clinched the doubles point by winning at the first and third slots. Demos and Krizman won 8-6, while Patterson and Rebol won 8-4. Labarte and Aragon, who won at No. 3 doubles the last match, lost 0-8 in the second slot.
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, Jacksonville was too talented at singles, as each Drake player lost in straight sets to their opponent.
The Bulldogs took on Bucknell in their next match, and the dominance in doubles continued. Drake swept all three doubles matches to take an early 1-0 lead.
The first match finished in singles play was at the fifth spot, where Patterson retired from the match down 2-5 in the first set. Aguilera and Demos retaliated with straight-set victories to put the Bulldogs up 3-1. Krizman fell at the top singles slot to put the match at 3-2 in favor of Drake, and it was the freshman Rebol who pushed the team to victory after a straight-set win at the second spot. The final score ended at 4-3 in favor of the Bulldogs as Aragon lost at the sixth position.
The Bulldogs ended their trip to Florida on a high note by defeating Fairleigh Dickinson 5-2. Once again the key to victory for Drake was winning the doubles point, which they did on the strength of wins at the second and third doubles positions.
The Bulldogs quickly sealed the victory in singles, as Aragon, Rebol, Aguilera and Krizman all won in straight sets to grant Drake victory at 5-0. Demos and Labarte lost their matches to set the final score at 5-2 in favor of Drake.
The Bulldogs stand with an 8-6 record, which gives them more wins entering conference play than they had throughout the entire season last year.
The Times-Delphic will have a full report of Drake’s Wednesday matchup against Nebraska-Omaha in Monday’s issue.