STORY BY ADAM ROGAN
The Men’s Tennis team won four matches and lost two over the break in two road tournaments.
The first match of the weekend was against the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNCW) in the South Florida Invitational, Drake’s only unranked opponent of the week.
“(Wilmington is) typically, year-in-year-out, a top-50 program. We knew going in it was going to be tough,” head coach Davidson Kozlowski said.
After taking the doubles point, Drake freshman Calum MacGeoch allowed the game to fall back into a 1-1 tie in a three set loss, 5-7, 6-0, 6-4.
Senior Alen Salibasic put the Bulldogs back on top with a 6-2, 7-5, improving to 14-6 at the one position this season.
No other Bulldog was able to pull out in their match and UNCW came out on top, 4-2.
“Playing our first match outdoors of the dual match season we knew it would be tough going out into the outdoor elements in Tampa, 85 degree weather,” Kozlowski said.
“We had some tough matches in the last week. It was difficult to adjust to the different circumstances obviously like coming down to Florida and playing outdoor tennis after two or three months indoors,” Salibasic added.
Drake rebounded quickly from the loss, refocusing against Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) and earning a 4-0 sweep.
The Bulldogs took their second win against a ranked opponent of the week, North Florida, on March 15 with another quick win.
Things didn’t look good early as Drake gave up the doubles point, but swept North Florida in singles, all in straight sets.
Salibasic earned a 6-4, 6-3 win in the matchup that also featured wins from MacGeoch, Bayo Phillips and Ben Mullis. Ravi Patel and Matt Frost were also leading in their matchups when the match was called.
After a three-day break the Bulldogs traveled to the San Diego Spring Classic for three more competitions against ranked opponents.
Taking on their hosts, San Diego State, Drake earned the doubles point behind wins from Salibasic/Mullis and Ben Lott/Phillips.
With the Bulldogs leading 3-2, Lott sealed the victory with a three set singles win.
That win was followed up by the Bulldogs’, who were ranked 33rd in the nation at the time, biggest victory of the season, an upset against 22nd ranked Harvard University on March 20.
Again, the Bulldogs started out at a disadvantage after losing the doubles point, but fired back in singles matches.
Lott and Phillips each fell in straight sets to put the Bulldogs behind 3-0. Every match became win-or-go-home.
Frost pulled out a narrow straight set victory, 6-3, 7-5 to get Drake a point, followed by three set victories by MacGeoch and Patel to tie the match at three.
All eyes turned to the first court as Salibasic, ranked 42nd in the nation faced off with Harvard’s 47th ranked Denis Nguyen.
Salibasic had won the first set in a tiebreaker, but Nguyen took a tiebreaker in set two. The third set was much less closely contested, as Salibasic finished off Nguyen 6-3 to give the Bulldogs the come-from-behind victory, the second time they’ve won this season after being down 3-0.
“(The win) was a highlight for me personally because that was my first win against Harvard individually,” Salibasic said. “And then coming back from a 3-0 difference just felt amazing.”
However, the team was spent after the upset, losing to the 30th ranked University of San Diego the next day.
The Bulldogs were swept in the doubles point. This was followed by losses from both of their ranked players, Salibasic and Lott, leading to a 4-2 loss.
Drake has a home doubleheader on their plate as they take on Georgia State University and the University of Green Bay on Friday before conference play continues next week.
“We just need to take care of business the next few weeks. We don’t have the luxury of losing,” Salibasic said. “If we take care of those we can see us getting into the NCAA Tournament.”