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Bulldogs rely on fitness, record several notable wins

Story by Taylor Soule

Photo by Ryan Koch

mtennis_koch-w2000-h2000As their opponents nursed cramping muscles and sore legs at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) All-Americans tournament, the Drake men played with confidence and energy.

“I’m pleased with our fitness,” said Drake head coach Davidson Kozlowski. “I’m pleased with where we are physically.”

Despite playing back-to-back matches against nationally ranked opponents in Tulsa, Okla., Sept. 28-Oct. 1, the Bulldogs recorded notable victories at the fall season’s premier tournament.

Junior Alen Salibasic paced Drake with a win over a nationally ranked opponent en route to a second-round berth in the qualifying draw.

Salibasic beat No. 68 Hunter Harrington of Clemson 6-4, 6-4 on Monday to earn a spot in the second round on Tuesday.

“Alen Salibasic picked up a great win over No. 68 in the country,” Kozlowski said. “That was huge.”

Salibasic’s ITA run concluded in a second-round battle on Tuesday.

Texas’ George Goldhoff claimed a close first-set victory at 7-5, but Salibasic retaliated to win the second 6-4. Goldhoff again edged Salibasic 7-5 to take the final set and the match.

Four other Bulldogs competed at the tournament, with three recording singles wins.

In doubles action on Tuesday, both Bulldog duos fell.

The pair of junior Matt Frost and senior Robin Goodman suffered an 8-6 setback against Nate Lammons and Alex Sanders of Southern Methodist.

The team of Salibasic and junior Ben Mullis lost an 8-4 tilt to Hunter Koontz and Joao Monteiro of Virginia Tech.

In singles play, Mullis fell to Sven Lalic of Indiana on Saturday 6-2, 6-4 in pre-qualifying competition. Mullis won his consolation match against Jimmy Roebker of Xavier on Sunday, 6-2, 7-6 (4).

Goodman lost his opening-round match to Farris Gosea of Illinois on Sunday, 6-3, 6-2. In consolation play on Tuesday, Jordan Angus of Mississippi defeated Goodman 3-6, 6-4, 6-2.

Junior transfer Ravi Patel opened his Drake career with a statement on Saturday, dispatching Juan Moreiras of Texas A&M 6-3, 6-1 in pre-qualifying action.

“It was a good match for me to get settled in,” Patel said. “I’m still adjusting to all the new things and new people at Drake.”

Patel’s ITA tournament run ended in a three-set loss to Srikar Alla of Rice in the second round of the pre-qualifying draw on Sunday, 6-7 (3), 6-3, 6-4.

Besides the pressure of adjusting to a new university, new city and new team, Patel faced pressure to open his Drake career with a strong performance. He transferred to Drake from South Florida this year.

“I still want to play well and prove myself,” Patel said. “I was a bit nervous in the sense that I want to show my abilities the best I can.”

Patel wasn’t the only Bulldog playing the first major tournament of his Drake career.

Drake transfer Frost registered a pair of wins in pre-qualifying action on Sunday.

Frost defeated Diego Acosta of Purdue 6-2, 6-3 after earning a first-round bye. The Southern Miss transfer Frost edged Jacoby Lewis of Texas in a three-set thriller, 6-1, 5-7, 6-2, to secure a berth in the qualifying draw.

In qualifying action on Monday, Frost fell to Dusty Boyer of Nebraska in three sets, 6-3, 3-6, 7-5.

Kozlowski, the Bulldogs’ coach, praised the Drake transfer players’ ITA performances.

“I’m happy with the performances of Ravi and Matt,” Kozlowski said. “I’m encouraged by the level of play. I saw a lot of things we need to work on, and I saw a lot of things we’ve been working on.”

With just over two weeks to practice before the Oct. 18-20 ITA Central Regional tournament, Kozlowski said he looks for Patel to improve his net presence, and Frost to rely more on his strong footwork. As a team, the Bulldogs will continue to focus on fitness.

For Kozlowski and the Bulldogs, the fall season is a time to build team chemistry and strength and make adjustments before the spring.

“This is kind of our developmental stage,” Kozlowski said.

Patel said the fall also offers a glimpse of the competition Drake will face in the spring.

“I think we’ll be ready for the spring,” Patel said. “We’ve already seen a lot of the opponents we’ll play in the spring.”

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