Story by Austin Cannon
Photos by Joel Venzke
Maddie Johnson led the way for the Bulldogs, capturing the Gold Flight Singles championship, and the team of junior Nell Boyd and sophomore Mariel Ante took the Maroon Flight Doubles title.
After the Drake Fall Invite last week, head coach Sadhaf Pervez was pleased with how her team responded against tougher competition.
“I think it was awesome that they got to see that they can go head-to-head with Big 10 schools,” Pervez said.
Even with steeper competition, Drake was the only team at the tournament to bring home both a singles and a doubles title.
“I think it’s good confidence for us as a team going forward to know that we can compete against higher-level teams,” Johnson said.
In her first match, Johnson bested Ankita Bhatia of Eastern Michigan University, 7-5, 6-1. She faced Kendall Heitzner of the University of Minnesota later on Friday and dispatched her, 6-4, 6-4, to advance to the flight semifinals.
Elsewhere in the Gold Flight, Ante also went 2-0 on the tournament’s opening day. She shutout the University of South Dakota’s Milica Pavlovic, 6-0, 6-0 and beat Eastern Michigan’s Mariya Toncheva 7-5, 6-1 to advance to the semi opposite Johnson.
On Saturday, Johnson edged Anastasia Tripolskaya of the University of Wisconsin, 6-4, 6-3, to advance to the Gold Flight final.
With the opportunity to make it an all-Drake final, Ante went up against Minnesota’s Maja Vujic, who defeated Drake sophomore Jordan Eggleston the day before in her semifinal.
Ante won the first set 6-3, but lost the second 1-6 and could not recover, losing the tiebreak, 5-10.
However, she could not hold off Johnson for much longer.
The Drake sophomore won the final set, 6-3, and the tiebreak 10-8, to take home the championship for the Bulldogs.
Ante took home fourth place in the flight after dropping the third place match to Tripolskaya, and Eggleston advanced to the fifth place match but lost a close match to Heitzner, 3-6, 6-2, 1-0 (10).
For the second straight week, Boyd competed in the tournament’s top draw, the ‘M’ Flight.
She went 2-2 on the weekend and was able to take down Wisconsin’s Sydney Rider 7-5, 7-5 to earn seventh place in the flight.
The Bulldogs also found success in the doubles portion of the tournament.
Boyd and Ante won their first match Friday morning, 8-2, over Daphne Friedrichs and Zsofia Biro of Eastern Michigan.
The next day, they faced the Minnesota team of Aria Lambert and Kelsey Frechette in the flight quarterfinals. The Bulldogs sent the Golden Gophers to the fifth place bracket with an 8-5 victory.
Only Jordyn Kearney and Sydney Wolfe of the University of Northern Iowa stood in the Bulldogs’ way of a berth in the final. Boyd and Ante brushed them aside, 8-2.
The final match wasn’t really a match, as Boyd and Ante won by default over Kylie Haviland and Jeke Stroobant of Northern Iowa.
Against the larger schools, Ante had to concentrate and maintain her positive mindset.
“The focus in each game is just more intense. … When you’re down, you can’t be down. You just have to keep on picking yourself up. Don’t let yourself drown in negativity,” Ante said.
The Drake team of Eggleston and Johnson went 3-1 in the Gold Flight Doubles and won fifth place in the bracket.
For this tournament, Pervez switched up the doubles teams, showing her team’s versatility.
“It is important for us to be able to play with a different partner. Knowing that we all could possibly play with each other is huge,” Boyd said.
Two tournaments in, Prevez has already seen improvement from her team.
“I totally believe that every single person on my team has gotten better, from the first day of hitting (un)til now,” Pervez said.
The Bulldogs play at the Northern Iowa Fall Invitational in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, tomorrow through Sunday.