Bulldogs dominate singles
The Drake men’s tennis team concluded its fall season this past weekend at the Gopher Invitational in Minneapolis, Minn., and did so in dominating fashion. The Bulldogs ended the tournament with a 37-8 record and went undefeated on Sunday as they swept Dartmouth.
Throughout the tournament, Drake’s top seven singles players never lost a match. Saturday saw the Bulldogs take on Nebraska and DePaul, and the singles lineup performed admirably.
The day kicked off against Nebraska and Drake senior Anis Ghorbel led the way for the Bulldogs at the top spot. Ghorbel won his match in straight sets, 6-0, 6-2. He wasn’t the only Drake player to do so. Sophomore Alen Salibasic, senior Jean Erasmus, sophomore Ben Mullis and freshman Ben Lott all won their matches in straight sets, highlighted by Erasmus who only lost one game the entire match. These four players were fourth through seventh on the depth chart. Drake’s success in the spring will rely greatly on them.
Senior James McKie and junior Robin Goodman also won their matches against Nebraska opponents, but the two were taken to a third set super-tiebreaker. Both Drake players won the tiebreaker 10-7.
Doubles play didn’t go as smoothly for the Bulldogs, as they went 2-2 against Nebraska opponents. The 59th ranked duo of Ghorbel and McKie won their match 8-3, and the pairing of Lott and Salibasic won 8-6 at the third doubles position. Erasmus and Goodman lost their match 8-6, while Mullis and senior Ryan Drake lost 8-5.
“Throughout the fall we have proven to ourselves that as a team we can play singles with anybody in the country,” said head coach Davidson Kozlowski. “However, for our team to reach the level of success and accomplish the goals we have set, we are going to need to improve our doubles play.”
Five Drake players also went up against opponents from DePaul on Saturday afternoon and all but one posted straight sets wins. Goodman, Salibasic, Erasmus, Mullis and Lott took on DePaul, with Goodman’s 6-1, 6-0 highlighting the matches.
The Bulldogs also showed improvement in doubles against the Blue Demons, as all three doubles teams won their matches. The third doubles pairing was changed though, as McKie teamed up with Mullis instead of pairing with Ghorbel.
The final day of the Gopher Invite was the perfect way to end an impressive fall season, as the Bulldogs went a perfect 11-0 on the day, winning all of their singles and doubles matches against the Dartmouth Big Green.
In singles, the Bulldogs won seven of the nine matches in straight sets, with super-tiebreaker wins at the seventh and ninth positions. In doubles, they continued the improvement from the DePaul matches, as all three doubles teams won their matches.
“I do think our doubles play improved over the course of the weekend,” Kozlowski said. “However, more than anything, I think this weekend gives our guys real motivation in the fact that they realize this team still has room for improvement. Sometimes when you have all answers there is a certain level of complacency, but we did not have all the answers this weekend in doubles.”
Kozlowski said that his team can’t sit back and relax during the short offseason between the fall and spring seasons, especially with the difficult schedule that is ahead of them. Drake’s first opponent of the year will be No. 32 Florida State, and it is slated to take on a number of nationally ranked teams in the ITA Kickoff Event in California.
“We all have to make sure we put in the effort now until spring and not take the foot off the pedal,” McKie said.