Story by Dominic Johnson
Like many Drake students next week, the No. 16 Drake men’s tennis team will travel to a warmer climate for spring break. The Bulldogs will play five matches in six days over spring break as they look to add to their 13-game winning streak and 13-1 overall record.
The first opponent Drake will face over break is the Stetson University Hatters in DeLand, Fla.. Although the Hatters will likely enter the contest unranked, they have been ranked as high as No. 71 in the nation this season. Stetson currently has a perfect 6-0 record.
Stetson has four matches between now and its match against the Bulldogs, all against lower-level competition. Drake is favored in the match but can’t take any chances against the Hatters on their home court, especially in the Florida heat.
Drake will then travel 120 miles south to Tampa, Fla., where it will take on the University of South Florida. The Bulls are currently unranked but were ranked as high as No. 50 after starting the season 2-0.
“Fitness will be key in the heat and on the slower courts, so we have to be ready for that from the outset,” sophomore Ben Mullis said.
The Bulldogs will conclude their spring break in San Diego, Calif., where they are competing in the Hilton San Diego Mission Valley Spring Classic, hosted by the University of San Diego and San Diego State University. San Diego, San Diego State, Harvard, Memphis, Denver, Oklahoma State and the University of Alabama at Birmingham are the eight teams competing. Drake and Harvard lead the pack with national rankings of 16 and 17, respectively.
The tournament draw won’t be set until March 20, a day before competition begins.
The Bulldogs await the chance to compete against more nationally-ranked teams before they begin Missouri Valley Conference play against Creighton on March 30.
“They are all strong teams but we have a very good chance to go unbeaten there in San Diego,” junior Robin Goodman said. “Lots of ranked opponents and it’s a fantastic opportunity to further prove our ability and keep climbing the rankings.”
Though the Bulldogs haven’t had a match since upsetting then-No. 14 Washington on March 2, the Bulldogs have been working hard in practice to prepare for the end of their non-conference campaign.
“With the work we’ve been putting in at 7 a.m. every morning, I feel ready for the whole team to begin our outdoor campaign and to dominate in Florida and San Diego, backing up our new ranking,” Mullis said.