STORY BY ADAM ROGAN
The Women’s Tennis team came away with two wins at home last weekend against St. John’s University and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM).
Drake and UWM, two very high-energy teams, faced off at the Knapp Tennis Center at noon on Friday in front of one of the biggest crowds of the season. The fans were treated to hard-fought competition right from the start.
Drake took the doubles point in two matches. Nell Boyd and Maddie Johnson dominated in their match, taking an 8-2 win, which was paralleled by close battles on the other two courts.
The word “grind” adorned the back of the Bulldogs’ jerseys, a term that would define every match on the day.
Boyd played in one of the closest, most intense matches of the season against UWM’s Zofia Stanisz. The first set went into a tiebreaker in which Boyd lost 8-10, neither Boyd nor Stanisz leading by more than one game through the whole set. The second set was just as close, but Boyd again was defeated as she dropped the last two games on the way to a 4-6 loss.
Freshman Summer Brills was saddled with the third Bulldog loss, losing 2-6 in both sets.
However, the rest of the team picked up the slack.
Adrienne Jensen rolled over her opponent in straight sets, 6-0, 6-2, followed by a 6-2, 6-2 win from Johnson.
Junior Lea Kozulic finished off the Red Storm with a 6-4, 6-2 win, giving the Bulldogs a 4-3 win.
“I didn’t play my best, but I tried to compete as much as I could,” Kozulic said. “I was just thinking positive in my head, thinking ‘I still got this.’ Even if I don’t have my A game I just try to fight for and hustle for every point.”
Junior Mariel Ante, a high-energy player, came out sluggish in singles and lost 2-6, 3-6, dropping to 6-5 on the season.
“I just have to work on working the point, basically, to get in the match,” Ante said after the loss.
Ante looked to improve for her match the next day, using Friday’s mistakes as motivation.
“Basically I’m happy for my team, but I’m pissed for my match. I already talked to my coach and I know that I have to do better,” Ante said.
That anger turned into a passion for victory on Saturday, a passion that would pay off.
UWM defeated Drake last year 2-5, but Saturday spelled a different story. The Bulldogs swept the Panthers in a 7-0 win, even though the matchup was much closer than it appeared on the scoreboard.
The Panthers came out aggressively in the doubles matches, attacking the net, but the Bulldogs responded quickly.
Boyd and Johnson won all six games in their match, followed by a 6-3 win from Ante and Tess Herder.
Jensen and Eggelston fell behind 2-4 early, but bounced back and came away with a 7-5 win featuring several smashes from Eggelston against the net.
That comeback demoralized the Panthers, paving the way for Drake in the singles matches.
Jensen took home her second win of the weekend with a 6-3, 6-1 victory, as did Johnson, who won 6-3 in each set.
Ante’s energy stayed high through the whole match, grinding her way to a 6-2, 7-5 win.
“I just didn’t think about my match yesterday,” Ante said. “Everything is a learning experience, so I just got to learn from what happened yesterday and move forward.”
Boyd was frustrated early on in the first set, but was still able to come away with a 6-4 win.
“She just was making a lot of balls and it was a really slow pace,” Boyd said. “I focused more on my feet and just making balls and waiting for the right ball to come in off the net, and that’s how I just kind of ran with it after the first set.”
This change in strategy helped her cruise to a 6-1 victory in set two.
Head coach Sadhaf Pervez echoed Boyd’s reaction as well.
“I think that we did well in making balls today, but staying aggressive. University of Wisconsin Milwaukee makes a ton of balls. They don’t give you free points and you got to really work for staying aggressive,” Pervez said. “I kept telling (the team), it’s like chopping the tree down. It’s going to take like five, six, seven, eight chops, and not just trying to blast in the first one or two.”
“I think that we played really well,” Boyd said. “They are a really good team. They’re dangerous. They can grind and they can get so many balls back.”
“We’re lucky we won 7-0,” Pervez said.
The Bulldogs continue their home stretch next weekend, facing Iowa State and the University of Missouri-Kansas City on Friday. They will conclude their weekend with a match against Wyoming on Sunday.