Story by Taylor Soule
Photo Courtesy Drake Athletics
When the two Drake men’s tennis players learned their doubles pairings a few days before the Oct. 17-21 ITA Central Regional tournament in Tulsa, Okla., they traded then-lofty dreams for a modest goal: Take each match a game, point and shot at a time.
“We just tried to take each match individually,” Goodman said. “We didn’t really look at the draw that closely beforehand. We just wanted to take it one step at a time and just see how far we could get.”
That’s when a few routine practices transformed into something remarkable, something no Drake team had ever achieved.
Patel and Goodman rallied from a 5-4 deficit to win the ITA Central Regional title on Monday, 8-5. The Drake pair earned a coveted trip to New York for the Nov. 7-8 ITA National Indoor Championships.
In their trademark one-point-at-a-time approach, though, they never played for the trophy, the record or the trip to the Big Apple. They played for each other and their team, point by point.
“It’s the sort of thing that if you think about it during the match or before the match, it can have a negative impact on the actual match,” Goodman said. “It was important that we contain those thoughts. Instead of thinking those thoughts, we took it one point at a time, and then once we crossed the finish line, we could think about it and what we actually accomplished.”
The Minnesota duo of Mathieu Froment and Jack Hamburg opened the title match with a high level of play, leaving the Drake duo “blown away.”
“I was actually quite shocked at the level,” Goodman said. “I knew both of those guys and had played them in singles before, seen them in dual matches the last couple years, but they were playing at a much higher level than I expected. In the very first half of that match, I was almost blown away at how well they were playing.”
Patel and Goodman didn’t let their shock linger for long, though, as they responded with their own signature intensity.
Then, the wait.
“We knew if we could hold on just tightly behind, we’d get our chance at some point,” Goodman said.
Then, the chance. Goodman knew Froment had buckled mentally in tough points against Drake junior Alen Salibasic in the past.
With the one-point-at-a-time approach in mind, Patel and Goodman lifted their level of play and rallied to beat the Golden Gopher duo 8-5.
Finally, when Patel and Goodman faced Froment and Hamburg at the net, they realized the caliber of their win.
It was no longer a collection of single points but record-setting proof of Drake’s rise to national prominence.
“We did a great job of playing every point how it was,” Patel said. “When we won, when we shook hands, we were like, ‘Dude, we’re going to New York now,’ and then it kicked in. We did a good job to keep that under control, but it did mean a lot. For me, it was one of the highlights of my college career.”
In other Drake action, two Bulldogs reached the semifinal round in singles competition.
Junior Matt Frost beat teammate Salibasic 6-1, 6-4 on Sunday to earn a semifinal berth. Sophomore Ben Lott beat another fellow Bulldog in Goodman, 6-4, 6-3 to advance.
Frost and Lott both fell in straight sets in Monday’s semifinals.
As the energy and momentum of the Drake-dominant ITA Central Regional linger in the Roger Knapp Tennis Center, head coach Davidson Kozlowski dubbed the performance a “wake-up call.”
“Not only was it a wake-up call to opposing teams, I think it was a wake-up call to our team, letting us know that what we are doing in practice, how we are preparing, is working, and we’re on track,” Kozlowski said. “We’re doing the right things to put ourselves in position for another very successful year. It was great with opposing coaches and tournament officials coming up and saying, ‘Wow, you guys really haven’t missed a step after losing three of your Top-6 players.’”