Story by Austin Cannon
Photos by Joel Venzke
Six days after falling to Wisconsin-Milwaukee by a score of 5-2, the Bulldogs left no doubt in the final result by winning each individual match.
“This match was big for us, to just play well, not even about winning, just to play well,” said Drake head coach Sadhaf Pervez, who collected her first victory as head coach.
The Bulldogs secured the win by overwhelming UND in early singles play.
Sophomore Jordan Eggleston extended the Drake lead to 2-0 with a decisive win over Mikaela Bennet, 6-1, 6-0.
Reigning Missouri Valley Conference player of the week, and No. 118 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s latest rankings, Maddie Johnson upped the lead to 3-0 by knocking off Lacey Sprinkel, 6-0, 6-2.
A victory from sophomore Lea Kozulic over Fatih Lee, 6-0, 6-2, gave the Bulldogs their fourth point and the victory.
On court No. 4, junior Nell Boyd managed to finish off Stephanie Bein, 6-1, 6-1, to add to the lead.
The final two matches were easily the most contested of the afternoon.
Sophomore Mariel Ante battled through the first set against Callie Ronkowski and eventually won 7-5. She then collected the victory with a 6-2 advantage in the second set.
Described by Pervez as a hard worker who competes for every point, Ante credited her victory to her energy on the court.
“I had to just will everything. … Competing, bringing the fist pumps and screams and whatnot,” Ante said.
The match of the day took place on court No. 1 between Klavdija Rebol and North Dakota’s Stephanie Pestis.
Rebol took the hard-fought first set, 6-4, but Pestis won the even more competitive second set, 7-5, forcing a tiebreak.
The two traded points and found themselves tied at 7-7. Pestis then scored two straight points, placing her a point away from winning the match, but Rebol responded with three more unanswered to take a 10-9 lead.
Pestis’s return on Rebol’s ensuing serve went long, putting the final match into Drake’s column.
“We’ve been really working hard together this week on finding her game and what makes her ‘her’ on the court. … For me, I felt like that win was the most important win today,” Pervez said.
The win parade began in the morning’s doubles portion of the contest.
The pair of Eggleston and Boyd notched the first victory, beating Biehn and Lee.
Ante and Kozulic collected Drake’s first point of the day by dispatching Ronkowski and Sprinkel, 6-1.
Drake’s Johnson and Rebol were up 5-2 on Bennet and Pestis, but the match ended early since Drake had already claimed the doubles point.
Even with the convincing victory, Pervez said she thinks her team has only begun to tap into its potential.
“We’re 1.7 on a scale of 10, and I can’t wait until they see the full 10. I cannot wait. They’re not going to believe the amazing tennis that they can play,” Pervez said.
This week, the Bulldogs take the drive down I-35 to face UMKC on Friday afternoon at 1 p.m.