BY ADAM ROGAN PHOTO ADAM ROGAN
After Drake Women’s Tennis opened the season with a disappointing road loss to Southern Illinois University Edwardsville on Jan. 22, the Bulldogs got their legs back under them in their second week.
Despite losing the doubles point in both matches, Drake came back to win against the University of South Dakota Coyotes on Feb. 4 and the Augustana University Vikings the next day.
The wins were also the first regular season victories under new head coach Mai-Ly Tran. Drake is the first collegiate head coaching gig for Tran, and it’s off to a 2-1 start.
“I’m really excited about the wins,” Tran said. “They were well deserved because the girls had to fight for them, they had to definitely earn these wins.”
Down 0-1 to the Coyotes, sophomore Kenya Williams swept her opponent 6-0, 6-0 to tie the match up. Junior Summer Brills gave Drake the lead with a two-set victory of her own. Junior Mela Jaglarz and freshman Alex Kozlowski fell soon after, putting the Coyotes up 3-2.
Sophomore Joely Lomas lost her first set 3-6, but turned the tide in the second set with a 6-2 win. The third set was tighter, but Lomas managed to come away with a 6-4 victory to tie the team match at three.
Senior Tess Herder won her first set before dropping the second. With the team decision resting solely on Drake’s lone senior, Herder pulled through with a 6-2 set-win to seal the victory.
Brills and Lomas cruised to a 6-1 victory on court 2 while Jaglarz and Kozlowski were picked apart on court 3, a 6-2 loss.
The point came down to court 1, occupied by Herder and Williams. Neither pair ever led by more than a game, pushing the match into a tiebreaker.
As the match progressed, Williams’ control faltered. She faulted on several serves and missed on a couple putaways, but Herder’s powerful serves and decisive slams kept the match close.
Herder/Williams got out ahead 5-3 in the first-to-7 tiebreaker, but dropped four consecutive points to give Augastana the first point of the match.
“It’s been tough losing the doubles and that’s something we need to work on,” Tran said. “They’ve been close. … The more time we have to spend on doubles, we’ll get better.”
At the outset of singles, Drake turned the tide. The Bulldogs won the first game on all six courts, a sign of things to come as each Bulldog won their first set.
Lomas was the first to finish, winning 6-0, 6-2. Williams wasn’t far behind with a 6-1, 6-2 win. Herder secured match point for the Bulldogs with a 6-1, 6-1 victory.
At first, it looked like Brills would be the one to finish the Vikings off. She won the first set easily, 6-2. Tied 3-3 in the second set, Brills lost three consecutive games, allowing a third set.
With her momentum lost, Brills continued to struggle. She lost the first five games of the set, ultimately ending 1-6 in Augustana’s favor.
Jaglarz ended up being the one to seal the match-win. She quietly went back-and-forth with her opponent and won in a three-setter: 6-2, 6-3, 6-4. It was the first win of the season for her and kept Drake above .500 in 2017.
“It feels so good. It’s such a relief to finally clinch,” Jaglarz said. “It feels like all the hard work has finally paid off.”
Jaglarz clincher is a sign of something the Bulldogs will need to rely on this season. The team only has six players, meaning that everyone will have to play every match to field a full team. In the fall, they had one more player on the roster, but the player, a freshman, elected to drop tennis in order to focus more exclusively on her studies.
“They know the situation, and with six players everyone has to step up,” Tran said. “We have a lot of work to do, but it’s very exciting as far as the results for the weekends.”
Herder, who has now been competing for four seasons, has been the team’s top performer to start 2017. She’s undefeated in singles (3-0) and is looking to ride that momentum as long as she can.
“(I’m) working on my focus and just being very confident in myself,” Herder said.
Drake will finish its start-of-the-season homestead this weekend. The Bulldogs will face Iowa State in the Roger Knapp Tennis Center at 4 p.m. this Friday, with the University of Nebraska at Omaha scheduled for 11 a.m. on Saturday.