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Senior Anis Ghorbel
Courtesy: AJ Harrison

Drake Visits California To Battle No. 33 Florida State In ITA Kickoff Weekend

Courtesy: Drake Athletics
Release: January 23, 2013
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After a record-setting performance at the Missouri Valley Conference Individuals this past weekend at the Roger Knapp Tennis Center, the Drake men's tennis team travels to Malibu, Calif., to compete in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Kickoff Weekend. 

The Bulldogs open competition against 33rd-rated Florida State on Saturday (Jan. 26) before playing either No. 7 Pepperdine or No. 53 Denver on Sunday (Jan. 27) at either 12:00 or 3:00 p.m. 

Drake is playing in the ITA Kickoff Weekend for the second time since traveling to Knoxville, Tenn., during the 2009 campaign where the squad battled Louisville and Harvard.

Establishing the tone for the rest of the Missouri Valley Conference that Drake is the squad to beat in 2013, the Bulldogs captured a league-record nine titles on the final day of the MVC Individuals on Sunday (Jan. 20) at the Roger Knapp Tennis Center.

The nine championships equaled the conference record for titles set by Indiana State in 2002, while surpassing the school mark of eight, which was previously established in 1993 and 2012.

Freshman Ben Lott (Newcastle, England) and sophomore Grant Tesmer (Lincoln, Neb.) captured the Bulldogs' first title of the day in the No. 3 doubles flight, besting Michael Davis and Arthur Romanet of Bradley, 8-7 (3).

In the No. 2 draw, senior Jean Erasmus (Windhoek, Namibia) and junior Robin Goodman (Cambridge, England) registered an 8-6 decision past Alvaro Gutierrez and Matheus Pereira of Wichita State.

Turning in the Bulldogs' third title of the day at No. 5 singles was sophomore Ben Mullis (Leicestershire, England), who netted a 6-2, 6-2 triumph past Sean Mathison of Creighton.

Goodman recorded a 6-2, 6-2 win over Erik Brunskog of Illinois State in the No. 2 draw.

Drake tallied its fifth championship at No. 3, where sophomore Alen Salibasic (Tuzla, Bosnia & Herzegovina) edged Ahmed Albitar of Bradley, 6-3, 6-3. 

Taking home the crown at No. 1 was senior James McKie (Edinburgh, Scotland), who avenged a preliminary round loss to Pereira of Wichita State, with a 6-3, 6-1 triumph.

Erasmus registered a 6-4, 6-2 win past Gutierrez from Wichita State at No. 4.

Lott provided Drake its eighth championship, dispatching Rolando Torrellas of Illinois State at No. 6, 6-3, 6-2.

Rounding out the victory total for the Bulldogs at No. 7 was Tesmer, who earned his second title of the day, besting Michael Sellitto of Illinois State, 6-2, 6-3.

On the strength of four Bulldogs garnering national singles rankings, Drake enters its 2013 season rated No. 45 in the latest Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) poll.

Coming off its fifth regular season MVC title in the last six campaigns and second consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, Drake, which equaled a school record for victories with a 24-3 mark last season, returns eight letterwinners from a squad that finished the spring campaign with a No. 47 national ranking.

Seniors Anis Ghorbel and James McKie, along with sophomores Alen Salibasic and Ben Mullis, were each recognized for their efforts during the fall campaign with a national singles ranking.  The quartet came in at No. 35, No. 68, No. 86 and No. 109, respectively, and are believed to be the largest group of players ever ranked in singles at one time in Drake program history. 

Only No. 2 University of Southern California (7) and No. 5 Duke (6) had more players rated than did the Bulldogs in the singles rankings.  Also having four singles players ranked were No. 1 Virginia, No. 14 California, No. 18 North Carolina and No. 30 Notre Dame.

In doubles, the tandem of Ghorbel and McKie made their debut in the poll at No. 16 nationally.

Also garnering regional recognition in singles were Ghorbel, McKie, Salibasic, Mullis, junior Robin Goodman and freshman Ben Lott, who were tabbed second, seventh, 11th, 12th, 19th and 20th, respectively, in the ITA Central Region.  In doubles, Ghorbel and McKie were rated No. 2 in the region.

Davidson Kozlowski
, an assistant coach the last seven seasons at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, is in his first season as head men's tennis coach at Drake.

The Blazers concluded the 2011 season with a 17-9 overall record, their highest-victory total since posting 19 wins in 2000.  UAB rose to as high as No. 59 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) ranking before concluding the campaign at No. 75.

During his tenure in Birmingham, Kozlowski spearheaded recruiting, assisted with team travel and budget management and coordinated fundraising and community outreach.

Kozlowski, 36, came to UAB after spending three years as the Director of Tennis at Birchtree Swim and Racquet Club, a position he continued to hold until his appointment at Drake.

The Bulldogs open their home slate with the first of four-consecutive matches at the Roger Knapp Tennis Center, hosting Graceland and UMKC on Feb. 1.  Match times are slated for 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.

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