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Drake falls to Wichita State in MVC final

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Story by Austin Cannon

Photos by Joel Venzke

tennis1_joel-w2000-h2000Top-ranked Wichita State spoiled the Drake women’s tennis team’s hopes to return to the NCAA Tournament with a 4-0 victory in the MVC Tournament final on Sunday in Normal, Ill.

After beating Evansville and SIU, the No. 3 Bulldogs made their first appearance in the title match since 2001, looking to capture the MVC’s automatic bid for the first time since 2000.

The Shockers got on the board early, securing the vital doubles point with victories at the No. 1 and No. 3 spots.

Veronika Blaskova and Lucia Kovalova dispatched Drake senior Klavdija Rebol and sophomore Lea Kozulic, 8-5, to give WSU the early advantage.

Julia Schiller and Abby Stevens followed quickly, barely edging the team of sophomores Mariel Ante and Jordan Eggleston, 8-7 (7), to win the doubles point for the Shockers.

Needing only three singles victories, the Shockers didn’t waste any time.

In her final collegiate match, Rebol fell to Schiller, 6-1, 6-0, to put Drake in a 2-0 hole.

Blaskova extended the Shocker advantage, downing Kozulic 6-1, 6-2.

On court No. 4, Stevens was able to secure the championship for WSU, beating junior Nell Boyd, 6-3, 6-1.

“We all really fought our hardest. No one really gave up,” Boyd said. “But we just fell a little short.”

“It was really upsetting,” Ante said. “We were not happy at all. It was frustrating for all of us.”

tennis2_joel-w2000-h2000Even on the van ride back to campus, the team started planning for next year.

“We did accomplish a lot of things, but we wanted more,” Ante said. “We started looking forward into the future and what we’re going to work on coming into the fall tournaments.”

On Saturday, Drake faced No. 2 SIU, a team it hadn’t beaten since 2011. The Salukis took the regular season match, 4-3.

After Johnson and Boyd battled back from a 4-0 deficit on court No. 2 to win 8-6, Drake claimed the doubles point and took a 1-0 lead.

The Bulldogs were 13-0 on the year when they won the doubles point.

Victories from Eggleston, Boyd and Kozulic were enough to advance the Bulldogs to the title match.

The Bulldogs dropped the doubles point to Evansville Friday, but collected four straight singles victories to advance.

Victories from Johnson, Eggleston, Boyd and Kozulic pushed the Bulldogs past the Purple Aces.

“We were a little nervous after losing the doubles point, but that just made us come out that much stronger in singles,” Boyd said.

Four Bulldogs earned All-Missouri Valley Conference honors on Thursday.

Johnson, Boyd and Eggleston all garnered first-team all-MVC accolades for their singles play at the Nos. 3, 4 and 5 spots. Rebol was named to the MVC all-select team.

Johnson, who led the Bulldogs with 31 singles wins, and Boyd were named for the second time while Thursday marked Eggleston’s first appearance on the first team.

All three players went an undefeated 6-0 during conference play.

Before being named to the all-select team, Rebol was named to the first team as a freshman for her play at the No. 3 singles spot.

Nearly the entire lineup returns next season in addition to four new players, giving the Bulldogs some much-needed depth.

“Being able to have those extra bodies, to know if someone is too tired or someone is really injured, to know that there’s someone there to fill their spot is going to be really good for us,” Boyd said.

With that in mind, Boyd had a prediction for the 2015 season.

“I am almost positive that we will probably win (the) MVC next year,” Boyd said.

“We want it more,” Ante said. “We’re hungry now.”

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