No. 39 Drake moved to 13-1 on the season last Sunday afternoon after it beat the Marquette Golden Eagles 4-3 in Milwaukee.
The Bulldogs kicked off the match by taking the doubles point off the strength of wins at the second and third spots.
The first duo to post a win was sophomore Robin Goodman and junior Jean Erasmus at the third doubles slot. The two made quick work of their opponents with an 8-2 win. The second doubles team, consisting of juniors James McKie and Anis Ghorbel, soon followed an 8-3 win. With the doubles point already secured, the No. 31 doubles team in the country, senior Cesar Bracho and freshman Alen Salibasic, fell 7-9 to Marquette’s Cameron Tehrani and Logon Collins.
The Bulldogs entered singles play with momentum and were expecting to dominate their Big East foes. But things weren’t so easy for Drake, as Marquette was looking to keep its undefeated home record intact.
The Golden Eagles struck first in singles, as Drake’s Erasmus lost to Dan Mamalat of Marquette 6-4, 6-3.
Before Marquette could take the lead, Goodman earned a hard fought 7-6, 6-1 victory over Vukasin Teofanovic to give the Bulldogs a lead they would not relinquish.
Salibasic required three sets in his match at the fifth singles spot to take down Jonathan Schwerin of Marquette. The Drake freshman overcame a lull in the second set to win 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.
It was McKie, who was recently named Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Week, who clinched the victory for the Bulldogs. After dropping the first set 6-2, McKie took control of the match to win 2-6, 6-1, 6-4.
“Marquette is a good team, and I think we underestimated them,” McKie said. “It was definitely a major wake up call.”
With the match already won, freshman Ben Mullis retired from his match at the sixth position when the match was tied 7-6, 1-6.
Ghorbel was the last match on court, and his match didn’t end favorably for the Bulldogs. Marquette’s Jose Crowley took the first set in a tiebreaker, but Ghorbel rallied back to win the second set 6-4. With the match already decided in the Bulldogs’ favor, the match at the first position was decided in a 10-set super tiebreaker in lieu of a complete third set. Marquette’s Crowley upset No. 82 Ghorbel 14-12 in the breaker.
Despite returning to Des Moines with the victory, this was the closest match of the season for the Bulldogs and served as a major wake up call for the rest of the season.
“This was a good learning lesson for us that regardless of whether or not a team is ranked, when you go on the road, teams compete very hard and you can’t just expect them to give it to you,” head coach Evan Austin said. “Marquette played extremely well at all spots.”
Drake’s next match is this Friday against the No. 48 Minnesota Golden Gophers. The Gophers, who were ranked No. 66 last week, are coming off of a 4-3 win over then-No. 40 Virginia Tech. This puts the Gophers on a four-match winning streak heading into Friday’s matchup in Rochester, Minn.
“(Minnesota) will be a top 40 team when it’s all said and done,” Austin said. “It’s going to be a battle up there in the top 40.”
The Bulldogs haven’t beaten the Gophers since the 2007-08 season, when Drake went undefeated on the season and garnered a program-high national ranking of No. 33. This year’s Drake squad is 2-0 against Big Ten Conference foes so far this season and is looking to make it a clean sweep against Minnesota.
The Gophers’ greatest strength is quite possibly their superb doubles play, as they have swept all three doubles matches in each of their last four victories. They have lost the doubles point only twice this season, against No. 25 LSU and No. 31 San Diego. Austin said that his squad’s doubles performance has improved from last year, and that they can start out strong against the Gophers.
“We just need to come out loose and aggressive in the doubles, and I think we have a good chance of winning it,” said Austin.
The Times-Delphic will have full coverage of Drake’s match against Minnesota in next Monday’s issue.
“I’m confident we’ll be ready for the challenge on Friday night,” Austin said.
Junior James McKie was named the Missouri Valley Conference Men’s Tennis Player of the Week on Tuesday. This is the sixth consecutive week that a Drake men’s tennis player has earned the award and the first time in McKie’s career that he earned the distinction.
McKie went 6-0 in his singles/doubles ledger to help the Bulldogs extend their winning streak to 12 matches.
In Drake’s 7-0 win over Iowa on Feb. 29, McKie snagged a 6-1, 6-2 victory at No. 2 singles, and he also paired with junior Anis Ghorbel for a 8-6 decision at No. 2 doubles.
In the Bulldogs’ 6-1 victory over Saint Louis last Friday, McKie garnered the deciding tallies in both singles and doubles. He again teamed with Ghorbel to notch an 8-2 win, this time at No. 1 doubles, before defeating Bobby Kidera in singles, 6-0, 6-1 at the No. 2 position.
In Drake’s 4-3 road win at Marquette on Sunday, McKie claimed clinching points for the Bulldogs in both singles and doubles.
On the season, McKie is now a combined 30-13 in his singles/doubles ledger, including a 9-1 record in singles. He has won his last eight singles matches.