Bulldogs head into MVC play boasting 17-2 record
No. 46 Drake won all four of its matches over spring break to improve its record to 17-2 going into Missouri Valley Conference play this Saturday.
The Bulldogs traveled to Texas for their spring break trip, with matches scheduled against the University of Texas at Arlington, Sacramento State and Southern Methodist. The match against UT-Arlington was cancelled on account of excessive wind, and head coach Evan Austin said that the match won’t be made up this season.
Drake’s first match was played on March 20 against Sacramento State, and after waiting three hours to begin the match due to a rain delay, the two teams agreed to start the competition with the singles play, with the first one claiming four matches as the winner.
The Bulldogs started with a bang, as freshman Ben Mullis dominated at the sixth position en route to a 6-1, 6-0 win.
The Hornets of Sacramento State fought back to level the score at 1-all, as Marek Marksoo defeated Drake sophomore Robin Goodman 6-1, 6-2. This was just Goodman’s second loss of his dual-match career, and his first loss since last year against Minnesota.
“Robin just had one of those days where he couldn’t get into it mentally,” Austin said. “Probably the first time that has happened to him in over a year, so we aren’t worried.”
From there on out, the match was dominated by the Bulldogs. Juniors Anis Ghorbel and James McKie each posted straight-set wins at the first and second singles positions, respectively, to extend Drake’s lead to 3-1.
Junior Jean Erasmus clinched the match at the third singles position for the Bulldogs, as Erasmus came back from a set down to win 3-6, 6-1, 6-4.
On March 21, the Bulldogs went up against the Mustangs of Southern Methodist. The Mustangs have been a solid team in the last few years, and despite not carrying a national ranking so far this season, they brought a battle against the Bulldogs.
With no excessive rain or wind to deter them, the two teams started the match traditionally with doubles play. Drake’s top doubles team of McKie and Ghorbel was the only duo to post a doubles victory for the team, as the two other squads could not replicate the 8-5 win. Dropping the doubles point put Drake at a 0-1 disadvantage, but the Bulldogs battled back in singles.
Senior Jonathan Hadash notched the first singles win for the Bulldogs at the fifth position. Hadash absolutely dismantled Tobias Flood of SMU 6-0, 6-1.
“Jonathan has been playing great in practice, working hard, and I just felt like he was ready to go,” Austin said.
McKie put the Bulldogs in the lead with a 7-5, 6-4 win at the second singles position. With Drake leading 2-1, the Mustangs made a charge to steal the match. Erasmus and Goodman both lost tight three-set matches, giving SMU a 3-2 lead.
With SMU just one point away from notching an upset, Ghorbel and Mullis stepped up for the Bulldogs. Ghorbel extended the match for Drake, as the junior won 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 at the first position to level the score at 3-all.
The outcome of the match rested on Mullis’ shoulders, and after dropping the first set and winning the second, a third set was going to decide the match. Mullis’ grinding style of play had taken its toll on his opponent, as the SMU player soon began to cramp up. With Mullis taking a 2-0 lead, SMU’s Robert Sajovich had to retire due to extreme cramping, giving Drake a 4-3 win.
“Ben’s one of those guys who is going to make you beat him,” Austin said. “The great thing about him is he’s a fighter and he wants to be out there when the match is on the line.”
Drake returned home to Des Moines for two more matches against the University of Missouri–Kansas City and Wisconsin-Green Bay. The Bulldogs garnered 7-0 victories in both matches. The match against Green Bay was a perfect sweep, as Drake won all doubles and singles matches in straight sets.
Austin said that getting four matches in outdoor weather before the start of the spring outdoor season was the most important aspect of the team’s spring break matches. With elements like the wind working against you, tennis outdoors involves a complete change of strategy for almost every player.
“It’s definitely a different game tactically when you go outdoors, and movement and patience really factor in,” Austin said. “You have to work your points and set up your weapons, you can’t just pull the trigger early in the rallies.”
The Bulldogs kick off their conference season against the Creighton Bluejays this Saturday at 10 a.m. The match will be played on the outside courts of the Roger Knapp Tennis Center, located behind the main building.
Ghorbel earns MVC Player of the Week honors
Junior Anis Ghorbel was named the Missouri Valley Conference Men’s Tennis Player of the Week on Tuesday. Ghorbel has earned the distinction five times in his career, including three this spring. This is also the seventh time this season that a Bulldog garnered the award.
Ghorbel went a perfect 7-0 in his singles/doubles ledger to help the Bulldogs to a 4-0 mark last week.
On the season, Ghorbel leads the team with a 40-10 singles/doubles record, including a team-best 23-5 singles mark.