STORY BY ADAM ROGAN
Friday will mark the beginning of the 33rd ranked Drake Men’s Tennis team’s sixth appearance in the NCAA Tournament in nine years. They will face-off with the 32nd ranked University of Louisville in the first round.
This match is just two days short of the two-year anniversary of Drake’s victory over Texas Christian University (TCU) in the first round of the 2013 NCAA Championship, the Bulldogs’ first win in the tournament ever.
“I’m just really looking forward to going out there with the team,” said freshman Calum MacGeoch as he prepares to play in his first NCAA Tournament. “We’re just looking to add onto the great season that we’ve had and keep it going for as long as we can.”
A win against Louisville will give the Bulldogs 25 on the season, which will tie the record for most wins in program history. The record was set in 2013 with the win over TCU, who they have potential to face again in this year’s tournament.
TCU is currently ranked as the sixth best team in the nation, but a rematch with them wouldn’t occur until the Elite Eight. The Bulldogs would need to beat fourth ranked University of Illinois in round two before even thinking about that.
However, the team’s eyes are not focused on the possible record or the opponents ahead, but instead on the match at hand.
“We’re looking to get past Louisville. That’s what we have to do first,” head coach Davidson Kozlowski said. “If we can’t get past Louisville then nothing else matters. Our focus, 100 percent right now, is on Louisville.”
With that focus comes confidence in their abilities, especially considering the fact that the Bulldogs took down Louisville on their home court earlier this year, 5-2 on Jan. 18.
However, the matchup set for Friday is vastly different than the previous one. Only two matchups remain the same, as Alen Salibasic will take on fifth ranked Sebastian Stiefelmeyer and Ravi Patel will face Chris Simich for the second time this season. Every other player will go up against a new face, as lineups have shifted considerably over the course of 2015.
“They’ll give us a little different look. We just need to make sure that we come out with the intensity that’s appropriate for the match,” Salibasic said.
“Same school name, but it’s going to be completely different matchups across the board,” Kozlowski added.
When it comes down to winning the match, the team doesn’t plan on doing anything special. The Bulldogs have already played one of the best seasons they’ve ever had. The team sports a record of 24-6, is undefeated in conference play and is looking to continue that success in the NCAA Tournament.
“We feel that all our players can step up and put us in positions to win,” Patel said. “We know that our team is good enough to win on all six courts and win the doubles point, so that’s key going into that match that we have confidence on all courts.”
Regardless of whatever happens against Louisville, the season will be over before May is out.
“It is just another match,” Patel said. “We have four seniors on this team and it could potentially be our last match so we are fighting our hearts out and we’re fighting for the younger guys to progress and make some Drake history in the process.”