Story by Austin Cannon
Photos by Joel Venzke
The Bulldogs placed a finalist in all five flights. They finished the tournament with four first-place finishes and one second place.
Sophomore Mariel Ante won the Flight ‘B’ Singles title while sophomore Jordan Eggleston won Flight ‘C’ Singles. Boyd made it into the Flight ‘A’ championship but fell short against Ksenia Pronina of Iowa State.
The Drake doubles teams of Boyd and Eggleston and sophomore Lea Kozulic and senior Klavdija Rebol both earned spots in the doubles ‘A’ Flight final.
Kozulic and Rebol took the championship after Boyd and Eggelston forfeited.
The team of Ante and Maddie Johnson took the ‘B’ Flight Doubles title.
“It just felt really great having a finalist, a Drake representative, in every flight of the tournament … We all deserved it,” Eggleston said.
First-year head coach Sadhaf Pervez was pleased with her team’s strong showing.
“I think after practicing for three weeks, it’s great to see how the girls competed this weekend,” Pervez said in a Drake athletics press release. “We have a lot to improve on, and I’m looking forward for the season.”
Drake had three representatives entered in the ‘A’ Flight, Boyd, Rebol and Johnson. All three advanced to the bracket’s semifinals.
Boyd bested Rebol 3-6, 6-2, 10-3 in the semis, and Johnson fell to Pronina 3-6, 0-6. Pronina then ousted Boyd 6-3, 6-1.
Boyd employed a new attacking mentality for the new season.
“I was pretty aggressive where usually I play more defensive,” Boyd said. “Unfortunately, I didn’t win the flight, but I was really overall happy with how I played.”
In the final, Ante once again refused to drop a set. She won 6-2, 7-5 over Ana Gasparovic of Iowa State.
Even with tougher competition, Ante was able to succeed.
“Last year, I went in the ‘C’ Flight and won that one, and this time I stepped it up and won the B Flight,” Ante said.
In the ‘C’ Flight, Eggleston blitzed through the bracket. She, too, did not drop a set. In the semis, she left North Dakota’s Stephanie Biehn with a pair of goose eggs, 6-0, 6-0.
She moved on to the final to take on Marissa Baca of the University of Northern Colorado, who, she eliminated with a 6-3, 6-3 victory.
Eggleston also paired with Boyd for doubles, a match that immediately paid dividends.
“It was my first time playing with Nell, and we played amazing together,” Eggleston said.
In the ‘A’ Flight semifinal, the duo came up against a tough Iowa State team, Caroline Andersen and Ksenia Pronina. The Cyclones took a quick 4-1 lead in an eight-game pro-set.
But then the Bulldogs overcame their nerves.
“We won the next seven games in a row and beat them 8-4 … It was crazy how well we played,” Boyd said.
Eggleston attributed her success to a renewed focus.
“I have seen a huge change, already, from last year, especially from the mental aspect of the game,” Eggleston said. “I used to get really distracted and now, having worked with Coach (Sadhaf Pervez), I’m more focused and disciplined on the court.”
Boyd was also quick to credit Pervez.
“She very much mentally prepared us. She was like, ‘I want you guys to go in tired. I want you to play tired and know what that feels like,’” Boyd said. “And the matches just seemed so easy compared to our practice because our practices have been so hard.”
Ante not only acknowledged the tougher practices, but also the attitude Pervez has brought.
“The intensity that she brought and the new changes in the tennis program is just really helpful for us to be successful,” Ante said.
The Bulldogs travel to Minneapolis tomorrow to compete in the Golden Gopher Fall Invitational.