STORY BY ADAM ROGAN
A pair of matches met the Bulldogs as Men’s Tennis finished their home season on March 27, defeating both Georgia State University and the University of Green Bay on Senior Day, the last match for three Drake University seniors at the Roger Knapp Tennis Center.
Drake entered the weekend ranked 29th in the nation, both of their opponents unranked.
Drake got off to an early lead against Georgia State as seniors Alen Salibasic and Ben Mullis sealed the doubles point and the momentum carried the Bulldogs through the singles matches.
Although Mullis fell to Georgia State’s Sofiane Chevallier to tie the match at one point apiece, his team responded quickly to get Drake back on top.
Freshman Ben Stride, after being taken to a 12th game in the first set, pulled off a straight set victory at the five position. Salibasic followed with a straight set victory of his own, 6-2, 7-5.
Senior Matt Frost was nearly defeated in straight sets, but battled back for the victory. He dropped the first set 3-6, but was able to stay alive with a 7-6 (7-5) win in the second set. This broke his opponent’s momentum and he was able to take the third set 6-3 and give Drake a 4-1 victory.
Taking on Green Bay in the afternoon, the Bulldogs won the doubles point again, but their singles matches proved to be a tougher competition.
However, before that began Drake congratulated their seniors, who were playing their final match at the Roger Knapp Tennis Center as Bulldogs. All four seniors was given a trophy to commemorate the hard work they have put into the Drake Tennis program in the past several years.
“Obviously we’re going to miss them. They’ve helped take this program to a whole new level. They’ve lifted Drake to a respectable national program,” said head coach Davidson Kozlowski.
“These guys are going to be missed terribly not only for their wins on the court, but also for their leadership.
“It was really sentimental, but it doesn’t really hit you until it’s over and it’s done,” senior Ravi Patel said. “After as you’re packing up and you’re leaving the court and you’re thinking that you’re not going to play a match.”
When play resumed, Salibasic picked up his second win of the day in straight sets against Green Bay’s Michael Tenzer, who Salibasic is now 2-1 against in his career.
However, that match was the only one of the afternoon that wasn’t taken to a third set.
Freshman Calum MacGeoch survived in a second set tiebreaker, but dropped the third set 6-2, reducing the Bulldogs lead to one in his first appearance at the fourth position of the season.
Mullis rebounded from his loss in the morning and put the Bulldogs a point away from victory, even after dropping the first set.
Stride took an early lead at the fifth spot with 6-2 first set victory, but lost the next two to bring the score 3-2.
Frost and Patel now had the spotlight on them, the only two Bulldogs still on the court, only one of them needing to win their match for their team to take the day.
Frost ended up becoming the hero again, after losing in the 12th game in set one, winning in the 12th game of set two, and putting his opponent away 6-3 in the third set.
Patel lost his third set, but it didn’t matter as Drake came away with the 4-3 win.
“There was a lot of sentimental stuff going on for me, but I definitely enjoyed being on the court for the last time here at Drake,” Salibasic said. “I did my best to end on a good note here.”
The Bulldogs will travel to Kansas to take on Wichita State University on Friday for the penultimate match of the regular season. They will take on Southern Illinois the week after, the postseason starting on April 16 with the Missouri Valley Conference Championship.
“We got a lot to play for and it’s key that we got these two wins before,” Patel said.