STORY BY ADAM ROGAN
The Bulldogs earned three big wins this past week, taking down two top-100 opponents and starting the conference season off with a win.
Drake trounced in-state rivals University of Iowa for the fourth consecutive year on Feb. 27.
“(I’m) really pleased with the way the guys came out. Again, dominated doubles, got us off to an early lead which has been really helpful,” head coach Davidson Kozlowski said.
Senior Ravi Patel did not play due to an illness, but freshman Calum MacGeoch filled the role and took away a win on the way to a 5-2 Bulldogs victory.
Drake entered March ranked 29th in the nation and only improved that standing with their performances on Sunday.
Facing off with Louisiana in the early afternoon and then Illinois State at 5 p.m., the Bulldogs won every match of the day.
Louisiana was ranked 75th entering Sunday, the fourth straight matchup for Drake against ranked competitors. However, Drake dispatched their opponents handily by a final score of 4-0, winning three matches over the tough stretch that included an upset of North Carolina State.
Alen Salibasic and Ben Mullis won their doubles match 6-4, improving to 5-0 on the season as a doubles team. Ravi Patel and Matt Frost won 6-3, the duo now touts an 11-2 record.
The Bulldogs sealed their victory with three straight set matches from Ben Lott, Salibasic and Frost.
Stride, Patel and Bayo Phillips were all leading in their matches, although they did not finish.
This win improves Drake’s record to 4-1 against ranked opponents in the regular season and 6-2 if tournaments are included.
The same lineup was used for the Bulldogs in the evening, leading to a similar outcome against Illinois State in the first conference matchup of the season.
Mullis and Salibasic easily won their doubles match by a score of 8-1, soon followed by Frost and Patel with an 8-5 victory.
Lott and Phillips were pushed into a tiebreaker, but completed the doubles sweep to take the point with an 8-7 (7-4) win.
All six singles matches finished in straight sets, extending the Bulldogs winning streak to three and tying their longest streak of the season.
“This weekend was really good, especially coming off of (a loss to) Denver the weekend before. It was good to get back out there, especially playing Iowa,” senior Matt Frost said.
The three wins helped Drake move up in the national rankings, now in 24th according to the Intercollegiate Tennis Association.
“It was a good confidence booster going into this week and we’re getting ready to match up with nationally ranked Washington and nationally ranked Minnesota (next weekend),” Kozlowski said.
The Bulldogs next competitions will take place in Minneapolis on Saturday and Sunday, facing off with the University of Washington and the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities.