Story by Taylor Soule
Photo Courtesy of The Missouri Valley
The Drake men’s tennis team avenged last year’s Missouri Valley Conference Championship defeat to Wichita State on Sunday, beating the Shockers 4-0 to win the title and advance to the NCAA tournament. The No. 39 Bulldogs faces No. 23 Memphis at 1 p.m. on May 9 in Champaign, Ill.
Though it marked a long-awaited moment for the entire team, the win felt particularly pivotal for junior transfers Matt Frost and Ravi Patel. With the victory, the Bulldog Way replaced lingering memories of last year.
“For me and Ravi, everything was always about last year, ‘We did this,’ so it was nice just to win the conference championship this year to say that this team is our own identity,” Frost said. “We’re not last year’s team. We’re a new team.”
Patel echoed Frost’s sentiments.
“I feel like a Bulldog now. I’ve been here for a while, and I’ve bought into the program,” Patel said. “I’m really happy here, and I’m playing well. I’m focused on this team. I’m living the Bulldog Way, as they say.”
Patel transferred from South Florida, and Frost came to Drake from Southern Miss. The pair played a big role in the 4-0 win over Wichita State on Sunday, winning at No. 3 doubles to give Drake a 1-0 edge entering singles.
They beat the Shockers’ Jocelyn Devilliers and Ibian Hodgson 8-7 (4).
Despite a mid-season slump as a doubles duo, the two eventually found their rhythm — and haven’t lost since March 20. The trip to Champaign is especially important for Patel and Frost. Neither reached the NCAA tournament at his last school, making the stakes even higher.
“For me and Frosty, we kind of want to do what they did last year and better because we just transferred in here, ‘Let’s show these guys what we’re made of,’” Patel said.
In singles action on Sunday, Drake secured the sweep with victories from Patel, junior Ben Mullis and senior Robin Goodman.
Patel beat Devilliers a second time on the day, 6-3, 6-1, at the No. 5 singles position. Mullis had no trouble dispatching Hodgson at No. 6, dropping just one game en route to a 6-0, 6-1 rout. Goodman rounded out Drake’s 4-0 win with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Guillermo Nicol at No. 3.
Though Patel and Frost weren’t at Drake when Wichita State stunned the Bulldogs 4-3 in the 2014 MVC Championship, they immediately bought into the team’s quest for revenge.
“As soon as I got here, that was all they talked about,” Frost said. “Every morning at our 6 a.m. workout, it would be like, ‘We need to beat Wichita (State).’”
The pair has likewise bought into Drake’s can-do attitude entering the NCAAs. Eager to beat last year’s first-ever NCAA tournament victory in school victory, Patel and the Bulldogs are already eyeing a spot in the Sweet 16.
“We do want to build on last year, definitely,” Patel said. “It’s not something that’s necessary to make or break the season because we’ve had a good season, but it’s definitely something we want to do. We know we can do it.”