Story by Austin Cannon
The men’s tennis team won the MVC and made the NCAA tournament. The women’s team nearly followed suit.
The women’s basketball team surged late in the season while the men struggled to find their identity on the court.
The 105th Drake Relays had some thinking it was the best ever. The volleyball team … well, best of luck next season.
Chris Creighton is out. Rick Fox is in.
Want to build a basketball practice facility? That’ll be $8 million.
Anyway, I thought I’d discuss this past year in sports with you, my loyal readers. (Of course, I probably could’ve gathered all three of you in a room to actually discuss it, but I have to fill this space.)
Here are the Top-10 moments from this year, in order of importance.
10. Losing sucks
The Drake volleyball team went 2-28 in 2013, losing its final 19 matches and going winless in the MVC. It was hard to watch.
The worst part was seeing how the team got used to losing. I’m sure the players and coaches all despised it, but it became a very familiar feeling as the season went on and they obviously couldn’t shake it. That’s hard for a young team to do. With a year under their belts, the Bulldogs should improve next fall and definitely win a few more contests.
9. Women’s soccer finally catches a break
The Drake women’s soccer team suffered numerous close losses and draws throughout the 2013 season. Even when they outplayed the opposition in close games, the result rarely went in the Bulldogs’ favor.
Fortunes reversed in the first round of the MVC tournament, when the Bulldogs beat Loyola in penalties to advance to the semifinals for the first time since 2009. Sure, Drake was crushed by Indiana State in the next round, but, at least for a moment, the soccer gods smiled on the Bulldogs.
8. A new practice facility, didn’t you hear?
The oft-publicized Shivers Basketball Practice Facility should be completed in October, which is a good thing for everyone.
The basketball teams get their own, intimate space to practice whenever they want, while the Bell Center courts will be for student use only.
That’s nice and all, but the people who donated $8 million dollars to build the facility hope to see better results on the court. Hopefully, it works and brings better basketball to Drake and, thus, more publicity for the university.
7. Football disappoints
After two-straight PFL titles, the Bulldogs were expected to compete for a third in 2013. Instead, Drake finished 6-5, fifth in the PFL.
The defense was stout, but the offense, under the direction of first-year starting quarterback Andy Rice, struggled to move the ball and score.
After Chris Creighton left for Eastern Michigan in December, Rick Fox took over as head coach, promising no real change in philosophy. In 2014, the Bulldogs’ strong defense, supported by a more reliable offense, should help Drake return to the PFL’s upper echelon.
6. Brogan Austin’s indoor season
After he missed the cross country season with anemia, senior distance runner Brogan Austin was dominant during the 2014 indoor track season.
After setting a new Drake record in the 5,000 meters (13 minutes, 59.71 seconds), Austin won the 3,000- and 5,000-meter races at the MVC Indoor Championship and earned Co-Most Valuable Athlete honors.
Unfortunately, Austin wasn’t able to defend his 2013 3,000-meter Drake Relays title due to injury. If he had, he’d be higher up on this list, probably at the top.
5. Giacoletti’s first year
The men’s basketball team finished a game under .500 in head coach Ray Giacoletti’s first season, which is … eh.
The 9-3 start was promising, but the Bulldogs were wildly inconsistent during the conference season, beating UNI and Missouri State but falling to Southern Illinois and failing to break 50 at Evansville.
Drake didn’t finish last in the MVC, like many predicted before the season. Not a high bar to clear, but exceeding expectations nonetheless.
A real judgment can be made a year or two down the road when Giacoletti has a team full of his recruits with a new practice facility to work with.
4. Six is just enough
In case you’re unfamiliar, it takes a minimum of six players to compete in a collegiate tennis match. Six is also the TOTAL number of players on the Drake women’s tennis team this spring.
Every player played every match. A shoulder injury nagged at Maddie Johnson while Mariel Ante walked on shoes made of ice post-match, but they couldn’t rest.
The kicker? The same roster as last year (minus a couple players) won three more matches and nearly qualified for the NCAA tournament (apparently Wichita State has to win everything these days). Head coach Sadhaf Pervez should be credited here. She truly brought out the best in her team. Imagine what she’ll do with the nine girls she has for next season.
3. Women’s basketball’s second half surge
The Drake women started the season with a 7-11 record, including an abysmal 1-6 start in MVC. Not good. Then Jennie Baranczyk’s squad won the next four in a row and compiled an 8-3 record to finish the year, losing those three games by a combined 13 points. They even made it to the MVC tournament championship game.
The keys? Drake switched to an improved, effective zone defense, Caitlin Ingle ran the point aggressively, Lizzy Wendell’s versatility confounded defenses, and Kyndal Clark netted a comical amount of 3-pointers (116!) and was named MVC Player of the Year.
It’s also worth mentioning that the entire starting lineup from will return for next year. That’s scary for the rest of the league.
2. This Relays was special
I cannot tell you if it was the best — I’ve been to a grand total of two — but the 2014 Drake Relays was a magnificent event. Hy-Vee High Jump and the mall vault provide the exciting atmosphere, but the marks the athletes set on the track were astounding.
A multitude of Relays records and world-leading times were set on that Blue Oval. The big-name athletes this meet attracts has translated to phenomenal results in the competition.
I was lucky enough to have a good seat for the men’s high jump on Friday night. Besides the Olympics, it does not get any better than that.
1. The men’s tennis team got its revenge
The best team at Drake fell to Wichita State in the 2013 MVC Championship final. This year, the Bulldogs faced WSU again in the final, and it went a little differently.
Drake shut out the Shockers, 4-0, to claim the automatic NCAA bid. It was Drake’s eighth MVC tournament title and second straight regular season title.
It doesn’t take a tennis moron like me to tell you they’re good, but you should see for yourself.
Cannon is a sophomore news-internet and politics double major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org