Bulldogs end title drought at MVC Championships
Story by Austin Cannon
Photo by Joel Venzke
Sophomore Maddie Johnson captured the Flight Five Singles championship, while the doubles team of sophomore Jordan Eggleston and junior Nell Boyd won the Flight Two Doubles title.
It was Johnson’s second singles championship of the fall season, and Eggleston and Boyd teamed up for their third doubles title.
It was the first time a Drake athlete had won an MVC singles championship since 2006.
It was an even longer wait for the doubles title. The Bulldogs last brought one home in 2002.
The Bulldogs, overall, have won 10 brackets in four tournaments this season.
After a tough weekend at the Northern Iowa Fall Invite, Johnson started off strong on Friday with a 6-0, 6-2 win over Bradley’s Carly Miles.
In the semifinal on Saturday, Johnson beat Satjaporn Mahajaroenkul 6-4, 6-1.
However, the flight final didn’t start well for Johnson. At all.
Kadi Ilves of Illinois State came out on fire. She shut out Johnson in the first set, 6-0.
“My opponent just came out playing really well, and I couldn’t really find my game right away,” Johnson said.
Even after such a tough set, Johnson was able to rally to win the second set handily, 6-1.
“I just had a feeling, eventually, I would start finding my game and start playing more aggressive and better. And once I did, I got confidence, and my opponent got frustrated and then it was more smooth sailing,” Johnson said.
Head coach Sadhaf Pervez applauded Johnson’s mental toughness.
“She didn’t panic, and she kind of collected herself and took a step back and really raised her level,” Pervez said.
She was able to harness the momentum from the second set to triumph in third, 6-1, to win the championship.
“I think her mental game was a big factor this weekend. I think that’s why she won,” Pervez said.
Eggleston and Boyd dispatched Polina Dozortseva and Anita Lee of Sothern Illinois, 8-3, in their first match.
In their match on Saturday, the Bulldogs dismissed the Northern Iowa team of Kylie Haviland and Krissy Lankelma, 8-2.
The formidable Wichita State team of Julia Schiller and Abby Stevens stood in the way of a championship.
However, Eggleston and Boyd were up to the task and defeated the Shockers, 8-5.
The duo is undefeated on the season, and Boyd has been a part of a winning doubles team in every tournament thus far.
“They’re really playing into the game plan I set for them,” Pervez said. “They’re really being aggressive out there. They’re not adjusting to other people’s games. They’re just focusing in on their game, which is working. ”
On the first day, some of the Bulldogs suffered from difficult placement on the bracket.
“We had a really tough draw in every flight. A lot of the girls who lost basically lost to the girl who won the flight,” Pervez said.
Even with the tough draw, the team was able to improve as the tournament progressed.
“We didn’t start out as well as we wanted to,” Johnson said. “(We) lost a couple close matches, but we ended up finishing the tournament, playing our best on the last day.”
In the top singles flight, senior Klavdija Rebol dropped her opening match to Natasha Jones of Evansville, 3-6, 3-6, and retired against Phyllis Tigges of Illinois State to end the singles portion of her weekend.
In Flight Two, Boyd was able from her opening match defeat to best Sierra Stone of Illinois State, 6-1, 6-3.
However, she fell in the fifth-place match to Evansville’s Marketa Trousilova, 6-7 (0), 6-4, 8-10.
Eggleston was unable to translate her success on the doubles side to the singles court.
Emmie Marx (Illinois State) beat her in the first match, 6-3, 1-6, 3-6. In the second match, Eggleston lost another three-set match, this time to Bradley’s Ashley Thai, 6-3, 5-7, 3-7.
Sophomore Lea Kozulic, coming off a foot injury, competed in the fourth flight.
On Friday, she left Sarah Kodefeld of Bradley with a pair of bagels in a dominating 6-0, 6-0 win.
After suffering a loss on Saturday, Kozulic faced UNI’s Lankelma in the third-place match.
Lankelma took the hotly contested first set, 7-6 (5), but Kozulic stormed back and won the second set convincingly, 6-1.
Kozulic was able to hold off Lankelma and secure third with a 10-7 win in the tiebreak.
Elsewhere in singles, sophomore Mariel Ante finished fifth in the sixth flight, and junior Amanda Dick finished fourth in the seventh.
In the top doubles flight, Johnson and Kozulic fell to the eventual flight champions Korey Love and Natasha Tomishima of SIU, 7-8.
However, the Drake pair was able to recover as it ushered UNI’s Erica Medlin and Jieke Stroobant off the court with an 8-1 beat down.
The team of Rebol and Ante was able to capture third place in the third doubles flight by beating Ariadna and Gisel Cairo Baza of SIU, 8-5.
This was the first look at the rest of the conference, a fact not lost by Eggleston.
“It’s just different because it’s the competition that you play in the spring, so you get to see how everybody plays, and you get a feel for it,” Eggleston said.
The Bulldogs next travel to where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain, Norman, Okla., for the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Central Regional, Oct. 17-19.