Story by Dominic Johnson
While most of campus was enjoying its final week of J-term, the No. 45 Drake men’s tennis team was starting off its 2013 spring season with a bang.
The Bulldogs got 2013 underway with the Missouri Valley Conference Individuals tournament. The Bulldogs dominated the tournament, which took place on January 18-20 at Drake’s Roger Knapp Tennis Center, as they went on to win nine of a possible 10 titles. The nine titles were good enough to tie the league record set by Indiana State in 2002.
Drake managed to sweep all seven singles spots, but what made the feat even more impressive was that it was done without the team’s top singles player, No. 35 Anis Ghorbel. With Ghorbel still training in Tunisia when the tournament began, every Drake player had to play up a spot in the rotation. The rest of the Missouri Valley Conference couldn’t keep up with the Bulldogs, as no Drake player dropped a single set in the final day of singles competition.
Senior James McKie, who holds a national ranking of No. 68, led the Bulldogs with a victory at the top singles position. Junior Robin Goodman, sophomore Alen Salibasic, senior Jean Erasmus, sophomore Ben Mullis, freshman Ben Lott and sophomore Grant Tesmer also won their respective singles titles.
Eramus and Goodman won the doubles title at the second slot, while Lott and Tesmer won at the third spot.
“MVC Individuals is so important because it gives us competitive matches before the dual season begins,” McKie said. “It definitely helped dominating the tournament but we are all aware that our competition will be tougher in the next few months.”
Competition did indeed escalate quickly for the Bulldogs, as their first dual match of the season was against No. 33 Florida State as part of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s Kickoff Weekend this past Saturday. Despite being ranked 12 spots behind the Seminoles, the Bulldogs were confident that they could compete and possibly get the upset.
The Bulldogs struggled early on in the match, though, as they dropped the doubles point to go down 0-1. Drake struck back immediately in singles play though, with McKie tallying a 6-2, 6-2 win at the second singles position. The Seminoles would then post three more victories in succession to win the dual match. Salibasic and Mullis both posted wins to put the final score at 4-3 in favor of Florida State. Despite being underdogs in the contest, the Bulldogs were gutted after their first match in Malibu.
“We should have beaten Florida State. It’s as simple as that,” McKie said.
The Bulldogs used their disappointment in the first match as fuel in their second match of the weekend, this time against No. 53 Denver. Whereas the Bulldogs lost the doubles point to Florida State, they used it to take an early 1-0 lead against the Pioneers.
In singles play, Salibasic pushed Drake’s lead to 2-0 with a straight sets win at the fourth position. Denver would then post its only singles win of the afternoon with Enej Bonin defeating Ghorbel at the top spot. Goodman would move the Bulldogs to 3-1, and it was Erasmus who clinched the match with a come-from-behind third set triumph at the fifth singles slot. McKie and Mullis would go on to win and push the final score to 6-1.
“The scoreline against Denver didn’t reflect how close the match was,” McKie said. “It was very tight and the doubles point could have gone either way.”
The Bulldogs will return home for four contests this weekend. With so many matches in a matter of three days, Drake is looking to iron out any kinks in its game while it is still early in the season.
“This weekend we will look into developing some areas that we may not get the opportunity to do so in other matches,” Mullis said.
Drake will take on Graceland and UMKC on Friday at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., respectively, at the Roger Knapp Tennis Center. On Sunday, the Bulldogs will go up against Green Bay at 10 a.m., while their last match of the weekend will be against Nebraska–Kearney at 3 p.m. UMKC and Green Bay were NCAA tournament participants in 2012.