After two weeks without playing a tournament, the Drake men’s tennis team is in Tulsa, Okla., competing in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s Central Regional tournament. All 10 members of the Bulldog squad are competing for a spot in the ITA National Tournament, as the winner of each regional tournament moves on to nationals later this fall.
The Bulldogs started play last Friday, as four Drake players competed in the qualifying draw to earn a spot in the singles main draw. Freshman Grant Tesmer, sophomore Robin Goodman, junior Ryan Drake and senior Sean O’Grady all had at least one win on Friday, but it was only Goodman and Drake who advanced to the main draw.
Goodman took out Gino Octa of Western Illinois 6-4, 6-2 to start off the day, and his 6-0, 6-0 win over Saint Louis’ Vuk Poledica moved him into the main draw. Drake posted equally solid results, as he took out Matthew Prevost of Oral Roberts 6-0, 6-1 and followed it up with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over South Dakota State’s Jamie Dash to move into the main draw.
The Bulldogs started off Saturday with the main draw doubles play, but all three Drake teams struggled to get going in the early morning matches. The duo of junior Anis Ghorbel and freshman Alen Salibasic took on Vlad Bondarenko and Rifat Bikyakov of the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Despite the powerful games from both Drake players, the duo fell short by a score of 8-6.
The next doubles match was also against Oklahoma State, and unfortunately the result mimicked the last match. Junior captains James McKie and Jean Erasmus lost 8-6 to Maniel Bains and Eric West of the Cowboys.
Drake’s final doubles team of Goodman and senior Cesar Bracho faced a familiar foe in Philip Arndt and Leandro Toledo of Minnesota, but the Bulldog duo lost 8-4. This Minnesota duo will likely be one of Minnesota’s top doubles team in the spring, as Arndt spent all of last year at the top doubles spot for the Golden Gophers and has been ranked as high as No. 28 in the doubles rankings.
Fortunately for the Bulldogs, their play picked up once singles play started. The first player on the court was the junior Drake, as he took on Kyle Obermeier of conference-rival Creighton. Obermeier played primarily at the third singles spot for the Bluejays last year, but Drake rose to the occasion as he dispatched Obermeier 6-4, 6-3. Unfortunately for Drake, he lost his second round match in straight sets to Grant Ive of Tulsa.
Ghorbel also performed admirably in his first round match, as the junior took out the No. 13 seed Andre Stenger of Nebraska 6-2, 6-3.
“I was feeling the ball today, moving good and no pressure,” Ghorbel said.
Ghorbel continued his strong play in the second round, as he took out Gabriel Townes of Bradley with an easy 6-1, 6-1 win. Ghorbel will take on Grant Ive of Tulsa in the round of 16.
“The way I saw Anis playing today, I believe he can win this tournament,” assistant coach Mauricio Ballivian said.
Bracho took on Lawrence Formentera of Oklahoma. Like Bracho, Formentera spent much of last season at the fifth or sixth singles positions, but Bracho won in straight sets 6-3, 6-4. In his second round match, Bracho was taken to the limit, but he couldn’t capitalize in the final set against David Calvalcanti of Wichita State, as he fell 3-6, 6-2, 6-4.
McKie took on fellow Scotsman Kester Black, a freshman at Wichita State, in his first round match. It was the Drake scot who dominated the match, as McKie won in straight sets 6-3, 7-5. The Drake captain took on Vlad Bondarenko, who upset the No. 10 seed, in his second match of the day. Bondarenko ended McKie’s tournament 6-2, 7-5.
Senior Jonathan Hadash battled his way through a tight first round contest against Juan Estenssoro of Wichita State and posted a 7-6, 7-5 victory. The win set up a second round matchup with his former teammate, the No. 11 seed Arndt of Minnesota. Arndt proved too much for Hadash, as the Drake senior fell 6-0, 6-2.
Not all the Bulldogs were so lucky in their first round matches, though. Salibasic took on the No. 3 seed Christopher Aumueller of Nebraska. Aumueller is ranked No. 31 in the nation in singles, and his talent was on full display Saturday as he was simply too much for the young Bulldog to handle.
Goodman’s impressive run through the qualifying draw didn’t transfer into success in the main draw, as he lost to Leandro Toledo of Minnesota 6-3, 7-5. Erasmus also lost to a Minnesota foe, as Juan Pablo Rameriz took the match 4-6, 6-3, 7-5.
Ghorbel’s main draw matches continued yesterday, while Erasmus, Goodman and Salibasic competed in the consolation draw.
“I know him because we met before during the African championship,” Ghorbel said of his next opponent. “I just have to stay aggressive, positive and go to the net to finish the points.”