Story and Photo by Taylor Soule
The Bulldogs won their first Missouri Valley Conference dual meet of the season on Saturday, 5-2 over in-state rival Northern Iowa. The Bulldog roster includes five freshmen, meaning Drake has over three seasons to develop the already-talented newcomers. The Bulldogs finished third as a team in the MVC last season, up from last-place finishes in 2010 and 2011.
All that optimism has led the Bulldogs to a sole 2013 goal: Win the MVC title for the first time since 2001. The Bulldogs look to take a step toward that goal on Saturday, when they take on Valley rival Creighton at 2 p.m. at the Roger Knapp Tennis Center.
The MVC foes enter Saturday evenly matched, as a whole. Drake owns a 7-7 overall record while the Bluejays own a 6-7 overall record.
Both teams feature young rosters. The Drake roster includes just two upperclassmen in senior Ali Patterson and junior Klavdija Rebol. The Creighton roster includes just two upperclassmen, too, in senior Anna Kirshenbaum and junior Analese Snyder.
Drake owns an early edge over Creighton in Valley play, though. Saturday marks the first MVC meet of 2013 for the Bluejays, but Drake already has one Valley win in the books. Creighton nerves may play to Drake’s advantage on Saturday, especially in matches versus the two Creighton freshmen.
With the teams so evenly matched, the Bulldogs will have to take the momentum early in doubles, a goal they have stressed all season. As the MVC season approached, Drake has played more and more matches in practice to boost mental and physical toughness versus the Valley’s deep field.
“We’re doing a little more match play in practice,” Patterson said.
Patterson will only play doubles this MVC season, and she is eager to lead the young Bulldogs by example and by making the most of her time on the court.
“For me, obviously, only playing doubles, it’s winning every doubles match that I am out there, and just keep leading this young team the whole conference season,” Patterson said.
Though freshman Jordan Eggleston just opened her MVC career on Saturday, nerves hardly fazed her. Eggleston won doubles and singles matches against the Panthers en route to an MVC Women’s Tennis Player of the Week nod for the week of April 2.
She credits more intense play in Drake’s strong start to the 2013 MVC campaign.
“I think we’re playing with a little more intensity than we have,” Eggleston said.
Though her individual MVC season started on an award-worthy note, Eggleston prefers the team atmosphere.
“I am really excited,” Eggleston said. “I love the team aspect.”
The Bulldogs host the rival Bluejays at 2 p.m. on Saturday at the Roger Knapp Tennis Center.
Though MVC dual matches have Drake busy for the next few weeks, the thought of a 2013 MVC trophy sneaks in. Though MVC dual season poses a challenge, Eggleston said she is sure of Drake’s Valley title chances.
“I think we’ll do fine,” Eggleston said. “I am excited for it.”