Drake defends turf before hitting the road
The Drake men’s tennis team improved its record to a perfect 6-0 after posting two 6-1 victories on Sunday. The Bulldogs defeated University of Illinois at Chicago and Graceland University in a dominating fashion in preparation for two difficult matches this week against Iowa and Minnesota.
The Bulldogs’ weekend began Sunday morning against the Flames of UIC, and the Bulldogs suffered a rare hiccup early on in the match during doubles play. All seemed to be going according to plan for Drake at doubles, with senior Mauricio Ballivian and freshman Robin Goodman easily defeating their opponents 8-4, but the real struggles came at the second and third positions. Sophomore Jean Erasmus and junior Jonathan Hadash were at the second doubles position, and sophomores Ryan Drake and Anis Ghorbel were at the third position. Neither team was able to break away from the Flames, and shortly after Drake and Ghorbel lost 9-7, Erasmus and Hadash left the court with the same result. This was the first time the Bulldogs lost the doubles point all season.
“We definitely did not expect to lose the doubles point against UIC, and I think because we did, it ended up being a positive reaction,” sophomore James McKie said. “It was a massive wake-up call for us on how serious the doubles point is and what we have to do to improve.”
The wake-up call at doubles spurred Drake to action at singles, where head coach Evan Austin put forth his usual lineup of players to distiguish the Flames. At the first slot, Ballivian needed three sets to defeat UIC’s Alexander Raa 7-5, 4-6, 6-4. McKie, who did not play doubles, posted a straight-set 7-6, 6-4 victory after starting slowly in the first set. Like Ballivian, Erasmus needed three sets to take out his opponent 6-7, 6-4, 6-3. Ghorbel, Goodman and Hadash all made quick work of their opponents, with no set finishing closer than 6-4.
A few hours after the UIC match, the Bulldogs took the court against the Graceland Yellowjackets, a nationally ranked team in the NAIA. If the Bulldogs looked shaky in the earlier match, all nerves and jitters were gone against the Yellowjackets. Drake dominated the doubles point this time around with the Ballivian/Goodman duo rushing out to an 8-2 victory at the first slot. McKie and Ghorbel soon followed up with an 8-3 victory at second doubles. Ryan Drake played with Erasmus at third doubles to sweep doubles play with an 8-5 win.
“In the afternoon all three pairs were much better because we were louder, more intense and didn’t show any negativity, which is so important in doubles,” McKie said. “You can have all the skill in the world and be a terrible doubles player; it’s about sticking to the basics, making a lot of balls and constantly showing huge intensity as one break could be all the difference.”
Austin changed the singles lineup against Graceland, with junior Sean O’Grady and sophomore Ryan Drake getting playing time while letting McKie and Hadash rest. The Bulldogs proved too much for their NAIA opponents, as Ballivian made quick work of Graceland’s Remy Caffardo, ranked No. 2 in all of NAIA play. The rest of the match followed suit, with each Bulldog except O’Grady posting convincing straight-set wins. Erasmus, Ghorbel and Goodman all moved up spots from their usual positions in the lineup, with Erasmus playing at No. 2, Ghorbel third and Goodman fourth.
This week, the Bulldogs face their stiffest competition of the season against Iowa and nationally ranked Minnesota. Iowa was ranked as high as No. 63 in the nation this season, but has since dropped out of the top 75. Minnesota is currently ranked in the top 30, sitting at No. 27 after beating nationally ranked Fresno State, Virginia Tech, Boise State, Wisconsin and Nebraska in a single five-game stretch. A win against both Iowa, which the Bulldogs played in Iowa City on Wednesday, and Minnesota, which they play in Minneapolis tomorrow would boost the team’s resume and possibly earn them a spot in the national rankings for the first time since Chase Hodges led the Bulldogs to a No. 33 ranking during the 2007-2008 season.
The Bulldogs are confident that they can beat both teams if they are able to stay focused on each individual point, game and match.
“After this weekend, we have gained the confidence in both doubles and singles to take down big teams like Iowa and Minnesota,” Goodman said. “We have set very high goals, but they are definitely reachable and realistic, so we have to prove ourselves this week.”
The Times-Delphic will have a full report on Drake’s matchups against its Big Ten opponents in next Monday’s issue.
Drake Preps for No. 27 Minnesota
The Bulldogs have a chance to burst onto the national scene tomorrow when they travel to the Twin Cities to take on nationally ranked Minnesota. The red-hot Golden Gophers have won five straight matches, all against nationally ranked opponents. Here are the key probable matchups:
No. 1 Singles: Mauricio Ballivian vs. Sebastian Gallego
• Ballivian has a chance to prove he belongs in the national individuals’ rankings.
No. 4 Singles: Anis Ghorbel vs. Phillip Arndt
• Arndt moved to 4-0 at the fourth singles slot this year with a win in a dual-match against No. 41 Nebraska last Saturday.
No. 1 Doubles: Ballivian/Ghorbel vs. Gallego/Arndt
• Head coach Evan Austin has stressed the importance of the doubles point all season,and he needs his top doubles combo to deliver early to set the tone of the match.