STORY BY ADAM ROGAN
The Bulldogs secured a seat in the NCAA Tournament after winning the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament with two wins over Illinois State and 59th ranked Wichita State in Saint Louis last week.
This will be the fifth year in a row that the Men’s Tennis team will have a chance to play for the national championship in the NCAA Tournament. Their seed is yet to be announced, but they were ranked 31 in the nation as of April 28. They didn’t need to win the MVC tournament to earn that spot, but it was good for momentum, confidence and also for helping the team earn a better seed in the NCAA.
Coming quickly out of the gates, the Bulldogs took the doubles point against Illinois State on April 18, earning Drake an early 1-0 lead.
Freshman Calum MacGeoch played in his first collegiate postseason match, and it seems his nerves got the best of him as he lost both sets 6-3.
That would be the only Bulldog loss on the day, however, as his older teammates backed MacGeoch up.
Alen Salibasic, the 34th best collegiate player in the nation, took down Illinois State’s Jakub Eisner 6-1, 6-1.
Seniors Matt Frost and Ravi Patel contributed wins of their own, putting the Bulldogs up 4-1 to allow them to move onto the next round.
Drake faced Wichita State on April 19 to decide who would be crowned as MVC Champion for the 2015 season.
The outlook was bleak for Drake as the team dropped the doubles point in three close matches. Seniors Ben Mullis and Salibasic came close to earning their team an early lead, but fell 8-7. The pressure now fell onto the singles matches, the Bulldogs needing to win four of six matches to take home the trophy yet again.
The Shockers extended their lead as MacGeoch was again dominated on the fifth court, losing in straight sets 6-1, 6-0.
Mullis brought the match back within one point, winning the first set in a 7-5 tiebreaker and following that up with a 6-3 second set.
Frost tied the match up at two in three sets. He nearly finished off Wichita State senior Tomislav Gregurovic in the second set, but lost a tiebreaker. Frost had a much easier job in the third set after his opponent was hindered by an injury, controlling the court on the way to a 6-2 victory.
Salibasic picked up his fifth win in six matches, facing off with Tin Ostojic, who defeated Salibasic April 3.
Tied at six games in set one a tightly fought tiebreaker went to Ostojic 7-9, giving Salibasic an uphill battle to give Drake the upper hand. He did not waver, however, and persevered and took the final two sets 6-3, 6-4.
Junior Ben Lott and Patel now had a chance to earn the match, and conference, victory, but each one of them had been pushed into a third set.
After staying alive with a second set tiebreaker victory, Lott was unable to overcome the deficit and lost the match 6-3 in set three.
After playing 30 total matches as a team in the past 16 days, the entire conference season came down to the number four court for the Bulldogs: Ravi Patel vs. Guillermo De Vilchez.
Patel dropped the first set in a tightly contested 6-7 (5-7) tiebreaker, but it was nothing compared to what would come later on. Patel remained unshaken after starting from behind and won set two 6-3.
Ahead in the second set five games to four, up 40-30 in game 10, De Vilchez had a chance to put Patel away and win the match, and the trophy, for the Shockers. Midway through the volley Patel kept an underhanded lob ball in by mere inches and De Vilchez would send his return two hits later out of bounds, pushing the game into a deuce, a deuce that Patel would win.
Patel would then take the lead in game 11, now up 6-5 over his opponent.
Game 12 was pushed to a deuce, De Vilchez needing a win in the game to stay alive and give his team a shot at the championship. In the deuce Patel called a ball out, but the referees overruled him, calling it in. This was the fourth time Patel had been overruled in the match, which means that he sacrifices the game.
The Wichita State team was under the impression that the game penalty came after De Vilchez had won the game and began to celebrate, but the match was still at a deuce so the match was still on, going into a tiebreaker at 6-6.
The tiebreaker went back-and-forth, neither Patel nor De Vilchez leading by more than two throughout. The first player to reach seven would win the game, set, match, tournament and MVC Championship. Not to mention, Patel also could not risk being overruled again because if that happened for a fifth time he would be disqualified.
Down 4-5, Patel won two consecutive points to put himself one away from victory. A hard serve forced De Vilchez’s return to go long, and Patel fell to his knees in victory, soon to be mobbed by his teammates on the court.
The bracket for the NCAA Tournament is can be viewed at ncaa.com. Check out the Times-Delphic next week for a preview of the team’s goals in the tournament, which begins on May 8.