Story by Dominic Johnson
Photo by Morgan Dezenski
The No. 41 Drake men’s tennis team is returning home to the Roger Knapp Tennis Center this weekend after posting one of the best wins in school history last weekend, as the Bulldogs defeated No. 30 Virginia Commonwealth.
This weekend, the Bulldogs will be going up against two unranked opponents in North Dakota and Western Illinois. Although Drake is the heavy favorite in both matches, the team is trying to focus on bringing the same energy to each and every match regardless of who is across the net.
“Rankings are really just a number,” sophomore Grant Tesmer said. “The rankings are never permanent until after the NCAAs at the very end of the season so, as a team, we don’t look at an unranked team as some walk-through.”
Saturday’s first match will be at 10 a.m. against North Dakota, and the contest will be North Dakota’s first match of the season. In fact, the 2012-2013 season is the first time North Dakota has fielded a men’s tennis team. Despite this, the Bulldogs are still familiar with the program, as the team was present at the Drake Fall Invitational in September.
The Bulldogs’ next opponent will be the Leathernecks of Western Illinois, a team Drake defeated 7-0 last season. This year’s Leathernecks are 3-7 on the season, and one of the losses is from Missouri Valley Conference rival Creighton. Western Illinois is led by senior Patrick Hammers, a two-time All-Summit League selection.
The Drake players are looking to improve upon last weekend’s performance and show that they can consistently be one of the top teams in the nation.
“This weekend for us will be a test to see if we can bring out that same desire and competitive mindset, which will be good for us, because we can never settle for having just one good weekend,” Tesmer said.
Because Drake doesn’t play another nationally-ranked team until March 1, the Bulldogs will look to improve aspects of their games that weren’t as polished against Nebraska and VCU. Specifically, the Bulldogs will be looking to improve their doubles play, which faltered against the Huskers.
“Since we don’t play another ranked team for a couple weeks, our practices are going to be dialed in on what we could have done better this past weekend,” Tesmer said. “These next couple of weeks (will) be crucial in our success because right now we are at a high point, but we need to stay on that level for us to reach that Top-25 ranking we want to be at,” Tesmer said.
Check back with The Times-Delphic on Monday for the results of this weekend’s matches.