Photo: Taylor Soule
At this point, Drake defeating nationally ranked opponents shouldn’t surprise anybody.
Just ask No. 38 Nebraska and No. 66 Idaho.
The No. 73 Bulldogs went into Lincoln, Neb., and shocked the Cornhuskers with a 4-3 victory last Friday. Drake followed that up with a 7-0 rout over the Vandals on Saturday.
The sizzling Bulldogs have won eight-straight matches and are now 9-1 on the season. With these two victories, Drake is expected to shoot up the national ladder when the next Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings are released.
“Obviously, it was a great weekend for us,” junior Anis Ghorbel said. “These were two big wins.”
The Bulldogs’ depth was key in the victory over Nebraska. At the top doubles spot, Ghorbel and junior James McKie took on the fifth-ranked duo in the country in Chris Aumueller and Benedikt Lindheim. Ghorbel and McKie pushed the Cornhusker pair but dropped the match 8-6.
Senior Cesar Bracho and freshman Alen Salibasic notched a thrilling 9-8 (4) win at the second slot to keep Drake’s hopes alive for garnering the doubles point. In the third position, junior Jean Erasmus and sophomore Robin Goodman secured the point with an 8-4 victory.
Aumueller and Lindheim were also strong at Nebraska’s top two spots in singles, respectively. At the top slot, No. 60 Aumueller defeated No. 73 Ghorbel 6-1, 6-3. Erasmus fell to No. 54 Lindheim at the second position 7-6 (5), 6-0.
The Bulldogs, however, responded with wins at the next three slots to clinch the match. McKie won his match 6-0, 6-1 at the No. 3 spot. Salibasic notched a 6-3, 6-4 victory at the No. 4 position, and Goodman garnered a 6-3, 6-4 triumph at the No. 5 slot.
“I think this was our best win so far (this season),” Ghorbel said. “They (Nebraska) have been a top 30- or top 20-team for the last five years. It was the toughest match so far.”
Freshman Ben Mullis dropped a 6-2, 6-3 decision at the No. 6 position to round out the final score.
“Nebraska has really great players,” Ghorbel said. “We played our best tennis, and we were all confident on the court. We carried that confidence into our match against Idaho.”
The Bulldogs had much less trouble with Idaho as they took down every point in the match.
On Saturday, Bracho and Salibasic handled the top spot in doubles with an 8-4 victory. Ghorbel and McKie fell at No. 2 doubles 8-7, but Erasmus and Goodman won 8-1 to notch the point for Drake.
The Bulldogs were unstoppable in singles play. They won every match and nearly took every set.
Ghorbel rallied from a first-set loss at No. 1 singles and kept his composure in two tightly contested final sets. He hung on for a 3-6, 7-5, 7-5 win. McKie also battled at the No. 2 slot, but he came away victorious in his match by a line of 6-4, 3-6, 10-8.
Once again, Drake’s depth proved to be an advantage. With those hotly contested matches at the top two slots, the Bulldogs barely sweat at the final four positions. Erasmus, Salibasic, Goodman and Mullis all swept their matches at the No. 3-6 slots, respectively.
“We’re not going to stop,” Ghorbel said. “We are going to keep working hard and play our best tennis. We have the players, the talent and the potential. Our (head) coach (Evan Austin) has done a great job.”
Drake returns home this week to take on Butler this Saturday. A match with in-state rival Iowa at the Roger Knapp Tennis Center looms on Feb. 29.