Photos: Taylor Soule
After a small stumble on the road against San Jose State on March 23, the Drake women’s tennis team is on a three-match winning streak heading into its final two home matches of the season against Bradley and Illinois State this Friday and Saturday, respectively. The Bulldogs will take on Bradley in the Roger Knapp Tennis Center on Friday at 5 p.m., and they will take on Illinois State on Saturday at 1 p.m. before hitting the road for four-straight road matches to close out the regular season.
“I honestly am very confident going into this weekend, even with our Illinois State match, which we have not won in several years,” senior Gabby Demos said. “However, I think there are a couple of things we need to be aware of as a team. Bradley is not one of the strongest teams in the conference, but if we go in too confident, it could be problematic. We just need to stick to our fundamentals and play our game, and I think we’ll come out on top. With Illinois State, they are a strong team, and we just need to go in prepared for a war. The doubles point will be key in this match and will take some pressure off us for singles if we can take it.”
Bradley comes in to the match with a 2-11 record this season, sitting at the bottom of the Missouri Valley Conference. Illinois State is a bit stronger at 6-4 and fourth in the Valley, but neither can top Drake’s 17-4 record, which is tops in the Valley. With the State Farm MVC Championship approaching, Drake is not going to look past any competition.
“In order to win both matches, we need to really be on our game and focus in on winning,” freshman Nell Boyd said. “They are both steady teams and could possibly beat us if we are not focused.”
Despite the Bulldogs league-leading record and steady play throughout the spring season, doubles competitions have been an area of inconsistency, something that they know will need to be straightened out heading down the home stretch of the season.
“We really need to do our best to get the doubles point in both matches,” Boyd said. “Then that puts us ahead, so doing extra doubles work will definitely help us get stronger in our weak areas and help us to try to get the doubles point.”
Demos concurred that doubles play will be important down the stretch.
“This week, I think we need to focus on doubles play, serve returns and point construction to get us most prepared for the weekend,” Demos said. “These are all things we could improve on and will make a big difference if we can even just get a little bit better.”
With only two home matches left, Drake will be looking to win both matches to keep momentum building before a four-match road trip and then the MVC tournament.
“Winning both would keep us moving forward and simply prepare us for our next matches,” head coach Paul Thomson said. “Each day out is a chance to improve and get better.”