BY ERIN O’BOYLE
A unique characteristic of the Drake Men’s tennis team is that of the nine student athletes on the team, only one was born and raised in the United States. The four first years on the team hail from Sweden, Serbia, and Cyprus. The most notable of the first years is possibly Oliver Johansson from Gothenburg, Sweden who is already making his mark on Drake’s tennis program. After going 6-0 in his matches during the first weekend of play, Johansson was named the Summit League Player of the Week. An impressive feat to have achieved so quickly after only making his debut for the Bulldogs on January 17th against Western Michigan.
“I am extremely happy to get this kind of recognition this early in my college career,” Johansson said. “At the same time, it’s a motivator to keep working even harder in practice.”
Johansson and the rest of the team traveled to Arkansas on the weekend of January 25th for three matches. The first of which was on Saturday afternoon against the Arkansas Razorbacks. The Bulldogs started the match by securing the doubles point with wins at No. 1 Doubles, consisting of Barny Thorold and Reid Jarvis, and first years Oliver Johansson and Matija Matic at No. 2 Doubles. However, the Bulldogs winning streak didn’t last long as the team headed into the singles portion of the match. The Razorbacks won four of the six singles matches, with No. 1 and No. 3 singles left unfinished. The Bulldogs walked away from the match with an overall loss of 1-4.
Later that evening, the Bulldogs faced Middle Tennessee in a match that resulted in a sweep for MT. Right off the bat, the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders claimed the doubles point with wins at No. 1 and 3 doubles. Drake’s No. 2 doubles team, made up of Johansson and Matic, left their match unfinished. That seemed to be a common occurrence against Middle Tennessee as No. 1, No. 2, and No. 5 singles all walked away with unfinished matches. This allowed the Blue Raiders to claim a 4-0 victory over the Drake Bulldogs.
After the losses the previous day, Drake had one more opportunity to salvage the weekend with their match against Wichita State on Sunday morning. At No. 1 doubles, Thorold and Finley Hall, left their match unfinished while No. 2 and 3 doubles fell to Wichita thus giving up the doubles point. The singles competition started off strong with a win for the Bulldogs at No. 2 singles. Johansson defeated his opponent in a swift match with final set scores of 6-3, 6-1. However, Johansson was the only one who was able to secure a win for the Bulldogs in the singles competition. Drake’s Evan Fragistas left his match at No. 3 singles unfinished, as did Finley Hall at No. 4 singles. The match ended with another loss for the Bulldogs with a final score of 1-4.
Johansson commented on the tough losses over the weekend.
“It was disappointing that none of the matches ended the way we wanted, especially since we all know what we are capable of,” Johansson said. “Again, I believe we need to be able to play our matches the way we practice. We just need to trust in ourselves a little more and just go after it in all of the matches we play.” Riding on a five-match losing streak, the Bulldogs head to Minneapolis to face the University of Alabama Crimson Tide on Friday, January 31st at 2 PM. On Sunday, February 2nd, the Drake men’s tennis team will travel yet again, but this time to Oregon to face the University of Oregon Ducks.