Story by Taylor Soule
The Drake men’s tennis team beat a pair of opponents in convincing fashion on Friday, improving the Bulldogs’ record to 4-3 on the season.
Drake beat Green Bay 5-1 Friday morning before routing UMKC 4-0 later that evening.
After a rocky start to the spring season, the back-to-back wins provided a much-needed confidence boost.
“It was really important, actually,” said junior Ravi Patel. “We lost a few close matches, so it was kind of nice to come out and play a couple of good teams. They were unranked but both have strong records this spring, and they wanted to beat us. That was tough.”
The Bulldogs fell behind early against Green Bay after dropping matches at the No. 1 and No. 3 doubles spots.
Drake quickly reclaimed the momentum in singles play, as junior Matt Frost clinched the 5-1 victory with a 6-2, 2-6, 6-1 win.
A few hours later, the Bulldogs didn’t drop a set en route to a 4-0 win over UMKC.
Patel said brief lapses in focus cost the Bulldogs in January’s tough losses to ranked teams Tulsa, Auburn and Boise State.
The Bulldogs didn’t let their focus waver on Friday, though.
“I think we concentrated throughout the whole match,” Patel said. “In the close matches we lost, sometimes Coach (Davidson Kozlowski) and we felt that we kind of let off in a couple games, and we lost our focus a bit. We were in winning positions, and that lapse in concentration kind of cost us the match, almost. You kind of just hold your foot down when you’re up and make sure you stay on it. Everybody did that across the courts, so that made the difference.”
Friday’s back-to-back victories are especially important as Drake awaits a pair of Big 10 opponents in Wisconsin and Minnesota. The Bulldogs travel to Badger territory on Feb. 15 before heading to Minneapolis a week later.
The No. 42 Bulldogs will look to Friday’s dominant performances for momentum against the No. 70 Badgers.
“We’re excited. We’re sure they’re excited, and we want them to be,” Patel said. “We want to have a real good battle with them. We want to take them out. I think this week of practice is important just to build on what we’ve done and maintain it. If we do that, we have a very good chance of winning.”
For Drake, every match is part of a long-term goal to surpass the record-setting 2012-13 Bulldog squad. Drake won its first-ever round at the NCAA tournament and ended the year with a record ranking of No. 27.
“As a team thing, I’d like to go to NCAAs and enhance on what they did last year,” Patel said. “Win a round, win two rounds, do whatever. I think anything is possible with this team. We have a lot of potential, and I think we’re finding it now.”
The Bulldogs face the Badgers at 11 a.m. on Saturday in Madison, Wis.