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Drake Seeks To Defend MVC Championship Title

Courtesy: Drake Athletics
         
Release: April 24, 2013
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WHAT’S AHEAD
Opening defense of its Missouri Valley Conference Championship title, the Drake men’s tennis team travels to Wichita, Kan., as the league’s top seed at this weekend’s conference championship hosted by Wichita State at the Coleman Tennis Complex.

By virtue of its 5-0 league mark, Drake garnered the top seed and received a bye into the championship semifinals on Saturday (April 27).  The Bulldogs will take on the winner in the No. 4 Illinois State/No. 5 Bradley affair at 10:00 a.m.  

A victory sends Drake into Sunday’s championship match that will be contested at 2:00 p.m.

2012 MVC CHAMPIONSHIP RECAP
Drake captured its sixth NCAA Tournament berth with a pair of victories at the 2012 MVC Championship in Omaha, Neb.  The Bulldogs claimed the title with a 4-1 triumph past Wichita State.

No. 48 Drake dispatched Illinois State, 4-0, on April 28, 2012 in the semifinal round of the league championship.

Drake captured the doubles point behind victories at the Nos. 1 and 2 positions, with the tandem of Anis Ghorbel (Sfax, Tunisia) and James McKie (Edinburgh, Scotland) clinching the tally, 8-3, at No. 1.

Ben Mullis (Leicestershire, England) extended the Bulldogs’ lead in singles at No. 6, 6-0, 6-1.
Pushing Drake to within a point of victory at the No. 1 position was Ghorbel, with a 6-0, 6-4 triumph.

Turning in the match-clinching point was McKie, at No. 2, 6-1, 6-2.

Jonathan Hadash wanted a chance for redemption and redeem himself he did as his 6-4, 7-6 (3) victory over Tomislav Gregurovic at No. 3 singles catapulted Drake to its second-straight State Farm MVC title, 4-1, over Wichita State on April 29, 2012.

The Shockers took the early lead in doubles, jumping to an early 7-2 advantage at the No. 2 slot en route to posting an 8-5 decision.

The Bulldogs’ duo of Cesar Bracho and Alen Salibasic (Tuzla, Bosnia & Herzegovina) claimed victory at the No. 3 position, 8-4.

All attention then turned to the top-doubles court where Ghorbel and McKie fell behind David Cavalcanti and Matheus Pereira, 4-3.

The duo waged a comeback that saw Drake score three of the next four tallies to assume a 6-4 advantage.  The Shockers netted two of the next three points before Ghorbel put away the match-winner with a second-serve ace to garner an 8-6 victory.

Salibasic extended the Bulldogs’ lead to 2-0, winning on court No. 6, 6-1, 6-2.

Falling behind 4-3 in the second set, Robin Goodman (Cambridge, England) registered three unanswered tallies to dispatch Guilermo Nicol, 6-2, 6-4, and give Drake a 3-0 lead.

Wichita State cracked the scoring column with a victory at No. 2.

All attention then turned to the No. 3 court where Hadash, who suffered a loss to Gregurovic a week ago, held a 5-2 second-set lead.  Gregurovic rallied to tie the set at five before Hadash took a 6-5 advantage, serving for the match.  Gregurovic again tied the set at six to force a tiebreaker.  Hadash briefly sought attention from the athletic trainer before rallying to win the tiebreaker and the match.

MULLIS NAMED MVC PLAYER OF THE WEEK
The Missouri Valley Conference announced that Drake sophomore Ben Mullis was chosen as the MVC Men’s Tennis Player of the Week.  The accolade is the eighth this spring for a Bulldog, while also marking the initial honor in Mullis’ Drake career.

Mullis helped spark Drake to a 3-0 mark over the weekend, including a 4-0 victory over No. 69 Wisconsin that extended the Bulldogs’ home-court winning streak to 32.  In Drake’s win against the Badgers he collected a 6-1, 6-3 triumph at No. 6 over Alexander Kokorov.

Mullis added a doubles victory at No. 3 with Robin Goodman, 9-7, in a 6-1 win versus Illinois State.  He concluded his weekend with a 7-6 (4), 6-1 victory at No. 3 singles in Drake’s 5-2 win over Bradley that gave the Bulldogs their third consecutive MVC regular season title.  

On the season, Mullis owns a 40-12 combined singles/doubles ledger.  He is 18-3 in singles during the dual campaign, including 4-0 in MVC matches.  Mullis is unbeaten (7-0) in league play in singles during his two seasons at Drake.

SENIOR GO OUT WITH A BANG
The Bulldogs’ tilts with Wisconsin, Illinois State and Bradley last weekend represented the final home matches in the Drake careers of seniors Ryan Drake (Hilton Head Island, S.C.), Jean Erasmus (Windhoek, Namibia), Anis Ghorbel and James McKie.

The quartet enters this weekend with 64-52, 177-74, 135-39 and 201-78 combined singles/doubles records, respectively, over their four seasons. The Bulldogs were 41-2 at the Roger Knapp Tennis Center during their careers, including wins in Drake’s last 32 home matches.

Erasmus is a three-time All-MVC performer, earning first-team accolades in singles in 2011, while being honored in doubles in 2011 and 2012.  Ghorbel has garnered first-team recognition in both singles and doubles in 2011 and 2012.  After corralling MVC all-select team honors as a freshman and sophomore, McKie brought home first-team laurels in singles in 2012 after collecting first-team recognition in doubles in each of his first three campaigns.

IN OUR LAST ENCOUNTERS
Drake 6, Illinois State 1 (April 20, 2013)
DES MOINES, Iowa - On the strength of its 6-1 victory past Illinois State last Saturday (April 20) at the Roger Knapp Tennis Center, No. 27th-rated Drake gained at least a share of the 2013 MVC regular season title, for the third year in a row.

The Bulldogs staked themselves to 1-0 advantage after Jean Erasmus and Alen Salibasic garnered the doubles point with a dramatic 9-8 (4) triumph on the No. 1 court.

Drake extended its lead to 3-0 in singles after victories by Salibasic and Robin Goodman at the Nos. 2 and 3 positions, respectively.

Salibasic recorded a 6-4, 6-0 triumph at No. 2, before Goodman added his team-leading 35th singles win of the year, 6-3, 6-3.

Netting the match-clinching tally at the No. 5 spot was sophomore Grant Tesmer (Lincoln, Neb.), who downed Michael Sellitto, 6-3, 6-0.

The Bulldogs also benefitted from victories by Erasmus and Ryan Drake at the Nos. 4 and 6 positions, respectively.

Drake 5, Bradley 2 (April 21, 2013)
DES MOINES, Iowa - Four years ago Jean Erasmus came to Des Moines having never seen snow and knowing very little about what makes Drake so special, but as his home career came to an end on Sunday (April 21), it was only fitting that he clinched the third consecutive MVC regular season title for No. 27 Drake in a 5-2 triumph past Bradley at the Roger Knapp Tennis Center.

The Bulldogs didn’t make their quest for the regular season title easy versus the Braves as Bradley captured victories at the Nos. 2 and 3 positions to claim the doubles point.

A bit of history occurred at No. 1 doubles where McKie paired with freshman Ben Lott (Newcastle, England) to earn an 8-4 triumph.  The victory was the 200th in the career of McKie, making him only the fourth Bulldog to reach the 200-win plateau.

Lott evened the affair at one, opening singles with a 6-1, 6-2 win at the No. 4 slot.  McKie provided Drake’s its initial lead in the affair, 2-1, at No. 1, 6-1, 6-3.

The Braves registered a win at No. 5 before Drake dispatched Kevin Keiner at the No. 6 position, 6-4, 6-3, to put the Bulldogs ahead to stay, 3-2.

Erasmus sealed the triumph on the strength of a 6-4, 7-5 triumph past Ahmed Albitar on the No. 2 court.  Ben Mullis closed out the victory total for Drake with a 7-6 (4), 6-1 win at No. 3.

BULLDOGS NO. 27 IN ITA RANKINGS
On the strength of three Bulldogs owning national singles rankings, Drake is rated No. 27 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 equaled a school record for victories with a 24-3 mark last season.  The Bulldogs return eight letterwinners from a squad that finished the spring campaign with a No. 47 national ranking.

Senior Anis Ghorbel, along with junior Robin Goodman, each maintained a national singles ranking when the latest ratings were released on April 23.  The duo is rated No. 63 and No. 120, respectively.

Also garnering regional recognition in singles were Ghorbel, James McKie, Alen Salibasic, Ben Mullis, 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.

DRAKE ODDS-N-ENDS
•    Senior James McKie moved past Mauricio Ballivian (2008-11) and Sergi Vila (2003-07) into sole possession of fourth place on the all-time victory list at Drake with a triumph at Southern Illinois.  With his doubles win over Bradley he became only the fourth Bulldog to surpass the 200-win plateau and he now owns 201 career victories.
•    Senior Jean Erasmus is eighth in school history with 177 career victories.  He is seven wins shy of surpassing Ross Nwachukwu (1990-94) for sixth place on the Drake career leaderboard.
•    Drake currently owns a 32-match homecourt winning streak dating back to the 2010 campaign.
•    Junior Robin Goodman and sophomore Ben Mullis are riding 11- and eight-match winning streaks in singles play.
•    With his win at No. 1 singles at Iowa (Feb. 27), McKie registered his 100th career singles victory.
•    Erasmus is nearing 100 singles triumphs as well, as he enters the week with a 96-29 career singles ledger.
•     Goodman, McKie and Alen Salibasic have surpassed the combined 50-win plateau this season as the trio owns 62, 62 and 54 victories, respectively.
•    Led by a 19-2 singles record from Goodman, every Bulldog owns a winning mark in singles during the dual campaign.
•    All but one Drake player sports a winning record in doubles this spring, led by a team-best 16-7 record courtesy of Goodman.
•    Goodman leads with 35 singles wins, while Salibasic and McKie have each posted 32 victories.
•    McKie, Goodman, Ghorbel and Salibasic pace the Bulldogs with 30, 27, 22 and 22 doubles triumphs, respectively.
•    Goodman directs Drake with a 62-14 combined singles/doubles ledger.  He is followed by McKie (62-18), Salibasic (54-22), Erasmus (41-19), Ben Mullis (40-12), Anis Ghorbel (38-16), Lott (36-11), Tesmer (26-9) and Ryan Drake (18-12).
•    No Drake player in singles has suffered double-digit setbacks.

DRAKE HEAD COACH DAVIDSON KOZLOWSKI
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, 37, 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.

UP NEXT
A pair of victories gives Drake an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament, while a setback forces the Bulldogs to see if they are awarded an at-large berth.

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