Photo: Taylor Soule
No. 39 Drake lost its second match of the season last Friday night, as the No. 48 Minnesota Golden Gophers bested the Bulldogs 5-2. The loss ended Drake’s 12-match winning streak.
The doubles matches were an omen of things to come, as the Gophers swept all three matches. The No. 31 doubles team in the nation, Drake’s freshman Alen Salibasic and senior Cesar Bracho, couldn’t find their rhythm as the Minnesota duo of Phillip Arndt and Jack Hamburg absorbed any blow the Bulldogs gave out. Arndt and Hamburg ended up winning 8-3.
The Gophers solidified the doubles point at the third position, where junior Jean Erasmus and sophomore Robin Goodman came as close as any of the Drake squads to competing for the match. The Minnesota team of Eric Frueh and Leandro Toledo closed out the match 8-5 to give the Gophers a 1-0 advantage.
The No. 50 doubles team in the nation, Minnesota’s Rok Bonin and Julian Dehn, topped Drake juniors Anis Ghorbel and James McKie 8-4 to give the Gophers a firm grasp on the momentum of the match.
“We didn’t come out fired up enough, so that’s why we went down on all three courts,” McKie said. “There were a lot of fans close to the courts in Rochester, (Minn.), so it was a tough place to play, too.”
Things didn’t get any easier for the Bulldogs in singles either. Drake started off well on the majority of the courts, though, as the Bulldogs garnered the first set on four of the six courts. But it was Minnesota who captured the first singles match. Minnesota’s Leandro Toledo, the No. 112 player in the nation, topped Drake’s Erasmus in straight sets, 7-6 (2), 6-3 at the third singles slot to push the lead to 2-0 for the Gophers.
Freshman Ben Mullis couldn’t get things rolling for the Bulldogs at the sixth position either. Minnesota’s Mathieu Froment posted a 6-2, 6-4 win to push its lead to 3-0.
Goodman wasn’t ready to hand the match over to the Gophers, though. The Bulldog sophomore, whose only loss in dual-match singles contests came last year against the Gophers, posted a hasty straight-set victory over Minnesota’s Hamburg. Goodman’s 6-3, 7-5 win put the Bulldogs on the scoreboard in hopes of shifting the momentum.
Following Goodman’s lead, McKie dominated Minnesota’s Arndt 6-1, 7-6 (0) at the second singles position to bring Drake within one, leaving the match in the hands of Salibasic and Ghorbel.
Salibasic and Ghorbel looked to be on track to give Drake a chance at the win, as both players won the first set. But, the two Bulldogs let up for just a moment, and the Gophers took advantage. After winning the first set 6-1, Salibasic dropped the next two 6-4, 6-4, giving Minnesota a 4-2 lead to win the dual match. Ghorbel also lost 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (5).
“I feel like we fought hard and unfortunately came up short on the night,” Goodman said. “It was a real battle out there.”
Last year’s loss against the Gophers sparked a 15-match winning streak for the Bulldogs that led them to a Missouri Valley Conference title and a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Drake is hoping that this loss will provide a similar fire underneath them.
“This loss really hurts because as the higher ranked team, we were expected to win,” McKie said. “If we want to be a top 30 team, we have to step up in situations like this.”
The Bulldogs now have a week of practice to prepare for their Spring Break trip to Texas. Drake will take on the University of Texas – Arlington, Sacramento State and Southern Methodist University from March 19-21. Drake’s first match is against Texas – Arlington on March 19 at 2 p.m. in Arlington, Texas.