STORY BY ADAM ROGAN
The Men’s Tennis team finished their regular season on April 11 with a 5-2 final score against the University of Southern Illinois. They ended their season at 22-6, the same record they had last season. An undefeated, 3-0 against conference members made the Bulldogs the Missouri Valley Conference champions for the fifth straight season.
“We put ourselves in a great position,” head coach Davidson Kozlowski said. “First and foremost at the start of the season is to win the conference.”
However, when he said this, Kozlowski was talking about the MVC Tournament that begins this weekend.
Drake’s number one seed in the tournament gives them a bye on Friday, their play set to resume on Saturday. The Bulldogs will face off with either Illinois State University or Stony Brook University, whichever teams wins the first round match.
Drake is currently ranked 31st in the nation, which should grant them an at-large seed in the NCAA Tournament, but the team still wants to take the guaranteed seed that comes along with being at the top of the conference.
“We still want to go and take the championship. It’s important for us,” senior Ravi Patel said. “We’ve been building up the whole year to go and get it and we’ve proved ourselves that we’re the strongest seed going into the tournament.”
Even if the MVC Tournament is at hand, the minds of the Bulldogs are looking forward to the big dance.
“The goal this year is to make the Sweet Sixteen so right now we’re preparing ourselves mentally to win two rounds in the tournament, hopefully,” senior Alen Salibasic, the 41st best player in the nation, said.
As the NCAA Tournament draws closer the competition the Bulldogs will face is sure to toughen. Still, after facing against ranked opponents such as Butler University and Harvard University, the team feels prepared for the change.
“We’ve played top teams this year, so we know what the experience is like,” Salibasic said. “We know where we’re at and can make our goals. The belief is there, it’s just preparation in the next two weeks.”
“We believe that we can beat these teams, no matter what rank they are,” Patel said.
Regardless, Kozlowski is focused on the MVC Tournament at the moment, knowing how much every match can matter, even if they are against teams that aren’t ranked as highly.
“(We just need to) keep doing what we do,” Kozlowski said. “Have the guys come out with a lot of intensity, a lot of energy, stay focused and play as hard as they can from the first ball in doubles to the last ball in singles.”