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Sports Tennis

‘Strong’ Shockers pose a threat in Valley competition

Story by Dominic Johnson

Photo by Morgan Dezenski

mtennis-w800-h800The No. 23 Drake men’s tennis team will  travel to Wichita, Kan., this Sunday to take on the Wichita State Shockers in its second conference match of the season.

Drake defeated Creighton last week to advance to 1-0 in conference play, but the Shockers prove to be much stiffer competition, especially on their home court.

“We’ve had a very solid start to the regular conference season,” said senior Jean Erasmus. “Everyone is fit and healthy, and this weekend we will be facing one of our toughest opponents in the conference.”

The Bulldogs enter into the contest boasting an 18-2 record, with their only losses coming at the hands of then-No. 33 Florida State and then-No. 23 Harvard. The Shockers, on the other hand, have a less-glamorous resume. They are 11-6, but all six of those losses have come at the hands of nationally ranked teams or previously ranked teams. Not only that, the teams they have played have all been in the Top-60, with then-No. 8 Oklahoma being their toughest match of the season. It is worth noting that every one of their losses came on the road, but that they are a perfect 11-0 at home and haven’t lost a single match.

With all the experience against nationally ranked teams, the Shockers won’t be phased or intimidated by Drake’s national ranking. But the Bulldogs are confident that they can prosper, even if they are away from their home courts. In fact, all of Drake’s victories over nationally ranked opponents have come away from the Roger Knapp Tennis Center, so the team will focus on replicating what it did during the non-conference portion of the spring season.

“We’re keeping to the things we’ve done very well all season, giving it 110 percent in practice and playing with high intensity,” Erasmus said.

The Shockers recently defeated UMKC on Monday, halting a three-game losing skid. The Bulldogs are looking to capitalize on Wichita State’s streak, as they believe their confidence is likely higher at this point in the season. The Shockers haven’t been nationally ranked since March 6, where they topped out at No. 71.

“This will be a great opportunity to face a strong team and hopefully, keep the confidence and motivation levels at a peak,” Erasmus said.

If the Bulldogs can capitalize in Wichita on Sunday, they will have passed their biggest hurdle of the conference season. The only other team that poses a tangible threat is Illinois State, but the Redbirds haven’t proven they can produce wins against ranked teams. Although they may be the favorites to win the conference crown, the Bulldogs noted that they must focus on one match at a time.

Check back with The Times-Delphic next week for the results of Drake’s match against the Shockers.

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