Drake Savoring NCAA Championship Experience
A first-hand factual and possibly comical account into the journey for the Drake men's tennis team in its visit to Los Angeles, Calif., to battle No. 34 TCU on Friday (May 10) by Drake Assistant Athletic Communications Director Sean Palchick.
LOS ANGELES, Calif. – The stage could not be any bigger for the Drake men’s tennis team as the Bulldogs have taken their talents to Los Angeles, Calif., to compete in the NCAA Championship against No. 34 TCU this Friday (May 10).
Drake is making its seventh NCAA Tournament appearance and for the first time in its last five appearances the Bulldogs do not find themselves in Champaign, Ill. Don’t get me wrong, the NCAA Tournament is a magical moment in the lives of our Bulldogs, but count me among those pleased for a change of scenery.
As Assistant Athletic Communications Director, I've been along on the ride for five of the Bulldogs’ seven NCAA appearances. From former head coaches Chase Hodges in 2007 and 2008, Evan Austin in 2011 and 2012, to current Drake men’s tennis CEO Davidson Kozlowski, it has been an adventure.
This group of Bulldogs led by All-Missouri Valley Conference performers James McKie (Edinburgh, Scotland), Alen Salibasic (Tuzla, Bosnia&Herzegovina), Jean Erasmus (Windhoek, Namibia) and Robin Goodman (Cambridge, England) aren't lacking in confidence. If you've seen them play this season that is clearly evident as Drake has equaled a school record for wins (24) set in 2008 and 2012.
They love to have fun but make no mistake they enjoy winning and success that has been a staple in this program even more.
The trip to Los Angeles began with an early wake-up call of Wednesday (May 8) as the Bulldogs caught a flight to Minneapolis before boarding a flying bird to the City of Angels. The flight got in ahead of schedule allowing Drake a little down time before its scheduled 3:00 p.m. PT practice at the Los Angeles Tennis Center.
The Bulldogs departed early for their practice, but a legendary mid-afternoon Los Angeles traffic jam made the journey to the campus of UCLA nearly an hour journey for a trip of less than 10 miles. That meant an extended dose of the Bulldogs in the minivan and they didn’t disappoint. This group of players is some of the best Drake has to offer, but I can’t lie because they like to have fun and sometimes that is at pulse-pounding levels.
Kozlowski led Drake through a more than two-hour practice on the main courts at the Los Angeles Tennis Center.
During this time I played a myriad of roles attempting to document the moment with a multitude of different cameras.
I must thank Drake’s Creative Services Coordinator Terrance Thames for hooking me up with an amazing camera to capture the action on video. The explosion of social media and video has been a wonderful thing, but it can be a handful to do it right so his help exemplifies what it means to be a true Bulldog.
The beauty of the Drake players is that no task, no opponent, no obstacle seems to faze them. They take to the court believing that if they stick to their strengths that anything is possible and based on the track record over the past seven seasons, the results have proven this out.
Once the photos were taken it was time to plug in my computer and see what I had. My biggest problem as usual was locating a power outlet outside near the courts. It took a few minutes but I found my prize and the game was on.
Following their practice, the Bulldogs behind my urging snuck into Pauley Pavilion, the historic home of UCLA basketball. It was truly an amazing facility, but it was time for the Drake players to grab a quick shower and head out to dinner at their favorite eating establishment, Olive Garden.
Two wins this weekend and we have a return date at the arena named for legendary UCLA head coach John Wooden for a photo opportunity for Kozlowski. I used the time at dinner to sift through my video exploits from the day and spliced them into a nice, neat video.
By the time the dinner was over the group was spent and headed back to the hotel to get their rest on.
On Thursday (May 9) morning the Bulldogs headed out a little after 8:00 a.m. for their 9:00 a.m. practice. This time the caravan avoided the 405 in Los Angeles and used the surface streets to weave their way to UCLA. The trip was quicker, but not by nearly as much as I had hoped. The players in my van were amazed by my ability to travel across this city using my skill and wit and not a GPS. My mom did teach me something about driving!
Drake again went through a spirited practice that lasted nearly 2.5 hours before returning to their hotel for lunch.
Following lunch I headed out for some exploration of Hollywood and Beverly Hills with Drake’s Director of Compliance, Cody Edwards, who arrived on Thursday.
Getting the opportunity to explore all the towns that I have visited in my more than 17 years in this profession traveling with teams like the Bulldogs are moments that you can’t put a price on. From all the Stars of the historic Hollywood Walk of Fame to Grauman’s Chinese Theater, it was a blast.
I especially enjoyed seeing all the stars, especially the likes of Mr. Rodgers, Dr. Seuss and being born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Mr. Cleveland Rocks himself, Drew Carey. I hope the team is able to experience some of these same things this weekend; that is after some victories.
The Bulldogs are now primed and ready for the challenge ahead of them on Friday (May 10) and it will now be up to the players to execute and capture Drake’s initial NCAA Tournament triumph. Match time is set for 12:00 p.m. CT (Click here for live stats). I will do my best to provide timely updates on Twitter but the Los Angeles Tennis Center is huge and trying to capture everything will be a challenge, one that I know I'm up to.
For me a perfect day would be the Bulldogs’ seventh win over a ranked opponent this season and then for a true baseball fan like myelf, a trip to Dodger Stadium.
Check back to GoDrakeBulldogs.com for further details on the Bulldogs' NCAA Tournament experience.