By ERIN O’BOYLE
The Drake men’s tennis team returned from spring break tan and tired after a long week of matches on the West Coast. The Bulldogs couldn’t seem to gain enough momentum throughout spring break, with only one win out of the six matches that they had in eight days.
After a little under a week break, the Bulldogs hit the road again, this time stopping in Denver, Colorado on Saturday, March 30 to face Denver University. The Denver Pioneers were the fifth Summit League team that the Bulldogs have faced this year. The last time the Bulldog played against another Summit League team was the beginning of March, and since then have been playing teams outside of their conference. The Denver match is the first of the two Summit League matches that the Bulldogs will play in the upcoming week. After leaving Denver, the Bulldogs have one last chance to play a Summit League team before the conference tournament at the end of April.
The Drake men’s tennis team went into the Denver match with a 4-0 record against Summit League teams. The Bulldogs had a rough start against the Pioneers with Denver having a clean sweep in the doubles competition. Already down a point, the Bulldogs had to win the majority of the singles matches in order to pull out the overall win. The first win came from Tom Hands at No. 2 singles with set scores of 6-3 and 7-5. Calum MacGeoch at No. 4 singles helped bring another point for the Bulldogs by winning in set scores of 6-3 and 6-4. At No. 6 singles, Ben Clark was able to defeat his opponent in set scores of 7-5 and 6-3. This left the Bulldogs with losses in No. 1, No. 3, and No. 5 singles. Since they were all tied up, the winning point came from Denver at No. 3 singles that pushed the Bulldogs to a 3-4 loss against the Pioneers, and their first loss in the Summit League.
With a 4-1 record against Summit League teams, the Bulldogs will travel to Indiana to face off against Valparaiso on April 6. Last season, Drake went 6-0 in the league against teams such as Denver, Valparaiso, Oral Roberts, Illinois State, Omaha and South Dakota State. This year Drake will have played all those teams before heading into the tournament except for South Dakota State. However, Drake played North Dakota State in February and claimed an impressive win against the Fighting Hawks. The Bulldogs are currently in 1st place in the Summit League standings. The Bulldogs have a 4-1 record while Denver has a 2-0 record followed by Valpo at a 2-1 ranking. The Bulldogs are walking into the match against Valparaiso on Saturday with a five-game losing streak and Valpo on top of the world with a six-game winning streak. The Bulldogs need to come in with a different mentality if they’re going to have any chance of securing their last conference match of the regular season. In the Summit League standings, North Dakota is in fourth place with a conference record of 1-1, with Oral Roberts falling in fifth place with a 1-2 record. Omaha and Illinois State are situated at the bottom of the rankings with no conference wins.
After their match against Valparaiso on Saturday mornings, the Bulldogs will start traveling back west, with a quick stop in Chicago, Illinois to take on DePaul on Saturday evening. The following weekend the Bulldogs will hit the East Coast to play against Old Dominion in Norfolk, Virginia. After their match in Virginia, the Drake men’s tennis team will have two weeks off from matches in preparation for the Summit League Tournament that will begin on April 27 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. As the reigning champions at last year’s Summit League tournament the Bulldogs have a lot to prove and I for one am excited to see how the Bulldogs will rise to the occasion.