This Friday, the Drake men’s tennis team will kick off its fall season with the Drake Fall Invitational at the Roger Knapp Tennis Center.
Six teams will descend upon Des Moines this weekend for the Invitational including Big Ten rival Iowa and Missouri Valley Conference foe Creighton. Other teams in attendance include Northern Colorado, Northern Illinois, North Dakota and Gustavus Adolphus. The Hawkeyes will send four players to compete, while the other teams will send six or more.
Play will kick off on Friday at 4 p.m. with two rounds of doubles matches. Saturday will consist of the doubles semifinals and the beginning of singles play. Finals in both doubles and singles will take place on Sunday. Play will begin at 8 a.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.
The four Bulldogs competing in the event will be sophomores Ben Mullis and Grant Tesmer, senior Ryan Drake and one other player who is still being decided on by first-year head coach Davidson Kozlowski. Kozlowski said the final spot will likely be filled by freshman Ben Lott, sophomore Alen Salibasic or senior Jean Erasmus. Kozlowski is still finalizing what the doubles pairings will be.
By having fewer than five players in the event, the Bulldogs are allowed to add one more match during the spring season. Therefore, the Bulldogs are only sending four players to the ITA All-American tournament next weekend as well. Seniors Anis Ghorbel and James McKie, junior Robin Goodman and Salibasic will likely sit out this weekend so they can play in the ITA All-American event.
“We were originally going to play the full team for the Invite,” Kozlowski said, “but I’m looking to add matches to our spring schedule instead.”
The four players representing Drake this weekend are eager to get back on the court after a summer of training and practice. For Mullis, this will be his first time competing in the Drake Fall Invitational, and he is set on representing Drake well this weekend.
“I feel in good shape for this event, we have been working hard, and it will be great to get back on court competing for Drake again,” Mullis said. “I’m looking forward to playing myself into form after the summer with some good, quality matches.”
Kowzlowski is looking forward to this weekend as well, as it will be the first event for him as the Bulldogs’ head coach. Despite this being his first event, this isn’t the first time he has seen many of his players in match play. In 2011, the Bulldogs defeated the UAB Blazers, where Kozlowski was an assistant coach before accepting the current Drake job. He also watched Mullis as a junior player in a tournament in Great Britain.
“Jean (Erasmus), James (McKie), Anis (Ghorbel), Robin (Goodman) and Ryan (Drake) all played against UAB a couple of seasons ago,” Kozlowski said. “The next two weeks will be great for me because I’ll get to see the progress they’ve all made and where we are at to start the season.”
Aside from winning as many matches as possible, senior Ryan Drake emphasizes that the first tournament of the fall season is all about gaining as much confidence as possible. With the dedication of this year’s Bulldog squad, they are also looking to send a message to teams around the nation right away.
“This weekend we are looking for as much confidence we can get individually and on a team level,” Drake said. “Even with only four guys playing this weekend you can still send a strong message if everybody performs well.”
The Times-Delphic will have complete coverage of this weekend’s Drake Fall Invitational in our next issue.