Story by Dominic Johnson
Photo by Taylor Soule
On Friday, May 10, the No. 31 Drake men’s tennis team will travel to Los Angeles, Calif., to take on the No. 34 Texas Christian University (TCU) Horned Frogs in the first round of the 2013 NCAA tournament.
The Bulldogs head to the west coast hoping to erase the memory of their 3-4 loss to Wichita State in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament final on April 28. With the Shockers reaching the NCAA tournament with the conference’s automatic bid, this marks the first time since 1996, and just the second instance overall, that two Missouri Valley teams have reached the NCAA tournament in the same year.
“Losing to Wichita was definitely the number one loss of my career,” senior James McKie said. “It hurt big time, but we have to bounce back and look to progress in the NCAA tournament. My days are numbered at Drake, and I will take every opportunity I get.”
Despite the loss to the Shockers, Drake enters into the NCAA tournament with a 24-3 record and are the higher seed in their first round matchup for the first time in Drake men’s tennis history. Despite entering the match as a slight favorite, the Bulldogs aren’t overlooking TCU.
“TCU is a very solid and talented team, and it will be an absolute war,” McKie said.
The Horned Frogs reached the NCAA tournament off the strength of a 18-9 record, finishing fourth in the Big 12 Conference.
“Everyone is excited and sees this as a great opportunity,” senior Jean Erasmus said. “Hopefully, we all stay injury free and bring out the best in the tournament.”
The Bulldogs’ stiffest test of the first round may come at the very start of the match, as TCU is particularly adept at doubles play, especially at the top spot. The Horned Frogs are led by Nick Chappell and Will Stein, who are the No. 48 doubles team in the country according to the Intercollegiate Tennis Association. Drake’s top doubles position has been in flux at various times throughout the season, but Erasmus and sophomore Alen Salibasic will likely face the tall task of taking out one of the top doubles pairings in the Big 12.
Despite the team’s superb play recently, Drake has never won a match in the NCAA tournament. Senior captain McKie is confident that his team will make Drake history this weekend.
“I have full confidence we can get the job done,” McKie said. “In my opinion, all it will come down to is which teams wants the victory more. I know for a fact we want this one badly. We will come out and give it everything we have.”
The winner of Friday’s match will face the winner of No. 1 UCLA and unranked UMKC on Saturday, May 11.