Photos: Taylor Soule
After falling 5-2 against Northern Iowa last season, Drake stepped into the Roger Knapp Tennis Center last Saturday with vengeance.
The Bulldogs’ payback mindset proved powerful.
Drake overcame an early deficit to narrowly beat the Panthers, opening Missouri Valley Conference play with a statement.
Before Drake notched a 4-3 win, though, the MVC rivals traded momentum.
“They’re a really good team,” said freshman Nell Boyd. “They came out really strong. We had to come out and really fight because we were down.”
Junior Manca Krizman and senior Gabriela Demos started Drake’s MVC campaign by dispatching UNI’s Krissy Lankelma and Cassandra Dix at the No. 1 doubles position, 8-4.
The Panthers’ Chelsea Moore and Stefannia Sampaio routed senior Amanda Aragon and Boyd at the No. 3 position, 8-3.
At No. 2, Jessica Kunzelmann and Nina Pfahler registered a 7-5 tiebreaker decision over senior Jessica Aguilera and sophomore Klavdija Rebol, securing the doubles point with a 9-8 match victory.
After narrowly dropping the doubles point, Drake refocused entering singles play.
“We knew we had chances to win,” Aguilera said.
Despite a rocky start at No. 5 singles, Aguilera battled Lankelma en route to a 6-3, 6-1 win.
“I started losing the first set, but I started fighting, and it worked out,” Aguilera said.
After a 6-0 first-set win, Boyd dropped a three-set thriller to Moore at No. 4 singles, 0-6, 6-1, 7-6 (5).
“It was just a matter of a few points,” she said. “It kind of sucks I didn’t win, but it was a good match.”
Rebol followed in similar fashion, dispatching Dix at No. 2 singles, 6-4, 6-2.
Junior Ali Patterson sealed Drake’s win with a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Sampaio at the No. 6 spot.
Kunzelmann netted Northern Iowa’s other singles win, dropping Demos at the No. 3 spot, 6-3, 6-1.
For Aguilera, winning Saturday’s match avenged 2011’s lopsided rivalry.
“UNI is one of our biggest rivals, and we were really happy to beat them,” she said.
MVC play is just underway, and despite two match losses, Saturday’s win was a step in the right direction for Boyd.
“It was huge,” she said. “It was a really good start to conference. It gives us a boost of confident heading into next week.”
The Bulldogs face Bradley at 5 p.m. this Friday at the Roger Knapp Tennis Center. On Saturday, Drake will take on Illinois State at 1 p.m.
After playing an already strong 2011-12 schedule, the Redbirds pose a threat on Saturday.
“Illinois State is going to be a very hard team to beat,” Boyd said. “They’ve played a lot of good teams this year, which probably has made them stronger.”