The No. 70 Drake men’s tennis team improved its record to 4-1 on the season with two 7-0 victories this past Saturday over Western Illinois and Chicago State.
Head coach Evan Austin played a number of different players in the two matches, a sign of the team’s great depth.
“I was trying to get some different guys into some matches and look at a few different doubles teams,” he said. “We have a bunch of guys who can contribute in the lineup, so when we play two matches in one day our depth helps us.”
The Bulldogs started out the morning with a bang against the Western Illinois Leathernecks, sweeping all three doubles matches.
Freshman Alen Salibasic teamed up with senior Cesar Bracho, and they took on Patrick Hammers and Mandela Shepard at the top doubles spot. The Drake duo was victorious 8-3. Sophomore Robin Goodman and freshman Ben Mullis defeated Ben Yue and Jim Capalbo 8-4 at the second spot. Senior Sean O’Grady and junior Jean Erasmus made quick work of their opponents at the third position, as an 8-1 score completed the sweep.
Drake continued its dominant play in singles, led by Salibasic at the top singles spot. The Drake freshman posted a 6-4, 6-1 victory for his first win at the top singles spot. Erasmus, no stranger to the No. 2 spot, won easily, 6-3, 6-2.
Goodman’s match was the most up and down of the afternoon. After winning the first set 6-0 against Western Illinois’ Ben Yue, he was forced into a second set tiebreaker to finish off the match 6-0, 7-6 (3).
The rest of the Bulldogs dominated their matches, as senior Jonathan Hadash won 6-0, 6-2 at the fourth spot. Mullis and freshman Grant Tesmer both posted 6-0, 6-0 victories at the fifth and sixth positions, respectively.
The next match of the day was against Chicago State, which was at an immediate disadvantage, having only five players available. Therefore, the Cougars had to forfeit a doubles match and a singles match, putting Drake at a 1-0 advantage to start the match. The Bulldogs soon stretched the lead to 2-0, as Salibasic and Bracho as well as Goodman and Erasmus made quick work of Chicago State’s doubles pairings.
With only two matches to go until their second victory of the day, each Drake player looked to be on a virtual sprint towards the finish line. Erasmus, playing at the first singles spot, won 6-3, 6-1. Salibasic won 6-1, 6-1. Mullis, making his first appearance at third singles, took advantage of the opportunity with a 6-2, 6-1 win. Hadash posted an equally dominant 6-1, 6-0 victory. Tesmer garnered yet another 6-0, 6-0 win, being the only Bulldog to finish the day without dropping a single game.
“It was important to get a couple of dual matches on our home courts,” Austin said. “Hopefully we can take a little momentum and confidence into the big match on Thursday.”
The quick sweep on Saturday afternoon gave the Bulldogs some much needed confidence for arguably their toughest home match of the season on Thursday against No. 64 East Tennessee State.
“They are a very competitive team, and their coach does a good job of getting his guys ready to play,” Austin said. “The thing for us is to have a good week of practice and coming out from the get go and being aggressive.”
The Bulldogs’ match against East Tennessee State will start at 11 a.m. at the Roger Knapp Tennis Center on Thursday.