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Drake Seeks Initial NCAA Triumph Battling No. 34 TCU

Courtesy: Drake Athletics
Release: May 07, 2013
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The Drake men’s tennis team is making its third consecutive NCAA Championship appearance as the Bulldogs travel to Los Angeles, Calif., to battle No. 34 TCU on Friday (May 10).  Match time at the Los Angeles Tennis Center is slated for 12:00 p.m. CT.  A first-ever NCAA victory propels Drake into a showdown with the winner of the top-ranked UCLA/UMKC tilt on Saturday (May 11) at 5:00 p.m. CT.

Fans may follow the Bulldogs in action this week via live stats located on GoDrakeBulldogs.com or on Twitter @DUBulldogs.

Drake will be playing in its seventh NCAA Tournament match when it squares off against TCU on Friday (May 10).  The Bulldogs are in search of their first tournament victory after having fallen in their previous six tilts.

1992 • Harvard (Athens, Ga.), L, 4-5
2006 • Oklahoma State (Stillwater, Okla.), L, 0-4
2007 • Michigan (Champaig), L, 1-4
2011 • Illinois (Champaign, Ill.), L, 0-4
2012 • Auburn (Champaign, Ill.), L, 2-4

The 27th-ranked Drake men’s tennis team knew it was in for a battle in the title match of the Missouri Valley Conference Championship on April 28 in Wichita, Kan., and the showdown with Wichita State came down to the wire before the Shockers captured a 4-3 victory and the league’s automatic NCAA Tournament berth.

The triumph ended the Bulldogs’ two-year championship run and prevented Drake from establishing a new single-season record for wins in a season.

Wichita State jumped to an early 1-0 advantage after capturing triumphs at the Nos. 1 and 2 doubles spots to garner the doubles tally.

Senior James McKie (Edinburgh, Scotland) evened the affair at one in singles besting Ilija Cuic at No. 2, 6-1, 6-1.

Fellow senior Anis Ghorbel (Sfax, Tunisia) provided Drake its first lead of the afternoon on the strength of a 6-2, 7-5 win over Matheus Pereira on the No. 1 court.

Sophomore Alen Salibasic (Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina) claimed the first set in his showdown versus Tomislav Gregurovic at No. 4 before dropping the final two sets in a 6-3, 3-6, 5-7 setback that squared the tilt at two.

The Shockers claimed a come-from-behind three-set triumph on the No. 5 court to increase their lead to 3-2 as Erik Reyes bested senior Jean Erasmus (Windhoek, Namibia), 4-6, 6-4, 6-1.

Sophomore Ben Mullis (Leicestershire, England) turned in a gritty effort at No. 6 to even the tilt at three after erasing a 6-5 third-set deficit to post a 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (3) victory past Guillermo Nicol.

Tin Ostojic punched the Shockers’ NCAA ticket netting a 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 win over junior Robin Goodman (Cambridge, England) at No. 3.

A day earlier, Drake advanced to its fourth consecutive MVC title match after dispatching Illinois State, 4-0, on April 27.

The victory enabled the Bulldogs to equal the school record for wins (24) set during the 2008 and 2012 campaigns, respectively.

Drake struck first in the match with triumphs at the Nos. 1 and 3 doubles positions to stake claim to the doubles point.   Securing the tally on the strength of an 8-5 decision past Erik Brunskog and Rodrigo OIiveira at the No. 3 slot were Ghorbel and Goodman.

Goodman tacked on his team-leading 36th singles victory of the season, 6-2, 6-4, over Jakub Eisner to extend Drake’s lead to 2-0.  Erasmus pushed the margin to 3-0 after registering a 6-4, 6-4 triumph against Rolando Torrellas on the No. 5 court.  Garnering the match-clinching tally at the No. 4 position was Salibasic, who bettered Jacob Wilson, 6-2, 6-3.

Drake senior Anis Ghorbel became only the sixth Drake men’s tennis player to be selected to participate in the NCAA Championship and first since 2008 with his inclusion as an automatic qualifier in the 64-player field, which was announced by the NCAA on May 1.

The last Bulldog to be chosen was Dalibor Pavic, who withdrew from the championship before competing in 2008.  Robert Novotny was the last Drake men’s tennis player to play in the event, participating in both 1995 and 1997.

Ghorbel is ranked 65th in the latest Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) rankings.

The singles and doubles competition will be conducted May 22-27 at the Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex/Atkins Tennis Center in Urbana, Ill., following the conclusion of the team championship, which runs from May 16-21 at the University of Illinois.

Drake was well represented when the annual Missouri Valley Conference postseason awards were announced on April 25 in Wichita, Kan.

The Bulldogs garnered Player of the Year accolades for the seventh-consecutive campaign as James McKie became the fifth Drake player to earn the award since its inception in 2007.

Chosen by his peers as the MVC Coach of the Year was head coach Davidson Kozlowski.

A five-time league Player of the Week selection, McKie was named an All-MVC first-selection in singles for the second-straight year after posting a 4-1 conference mark en route to a 17-5 ledger in the dual campaign.  As a junior, he was named to the All-MVC first team at the No. 2 position after earning MVC All-Select honors as both a freshman and sophomore.

Garnering first team recognition in singles were McKie, Alen Salibasic and Robin Goodman at the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 singles slots, respectively. The trio finished with an 11-2 combined league mark, including a perfect 4-0 record from Goodman.

Being tabbed to the All-MVC first team for the initial time in singles was Goodman, while Salibasic captured recognition for the second year in a row after being chosen at No. 4 singles as a freshman.

Salibasic owns a 33-10 singles mark this season, including 18-6 during the dual campaign.

Goodman has turned in a breakout year netting a team-best 36-5 singles ledger and a 4-0 MVC mark.

Pulling in MVC All-Select team accolades on the strength of a 43-21 combined singles/doubles ledger was Jean Erasmus.  He maintains a 25-7 singles record this season, including 14-6 during the dual campaign.

Drake garnered a trio of selections for the Missouri Valley Conference Scholar-Athlete team, the league announced on April 25.

Robin Goodman and Alen Salibasic earned first-team accolades for the first time, while Jean Erasmus was tabbed to the Scholar-Athlete honorable mention squad.

A native of Cambridge, England, Goodman owns a 3.52 grade-point average in business management and maintains a team-best 64-15 combined singles/doubles record.  He leads Drake with a 36-5 singles mark, including 20-3 in the spring and 4-0 in the MVC, while ranking second in doubles wins with 28.

A native of Tuzla in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Salibasic boasts a perfect 4.0 GPA and maintains a 56-24 combined singles/doubles record this season.  His 33 singles victories are second-best on the squad, while ranking second in overall triumphs (56) and third in doubles wins (23).

A native of Windhoek, Namibia, Erasmus sports 3.24 GPA in health science and has garnered a 43-21 combined singles/doubles record this season, including a 25-7 mark in singles.  He is eighth all-time at Drake with 179 victories.

Alen Salibasic was selected as the MVC Elite 18 Award winner for men’s tennis, the league announced on April 28.

The Elite 18 Award program was established by the MVC in the Fall of 2010 to honor the highest achievement on academics and athletics by a student-athlete in each league-sponsored sport.  Modeled after the NCAA Elite 88 Academic Recognition Award Program, the MVC Elite 18 award is presented to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative grade-point-average competing at the finals site of each of the league’s 18 team championships.

The Bulldogs’ tilts with Wisconsin, Illinois State and Bradley April 20-21 represented the final home matches in the Drake careers of seniors Ryan Drake (Hilton Head Island, S.C.), Jean Erasmus, Anis Ghorbel and James McKie.

The quartet enters NCAA Tournament play with 64-52, 179-746 137-39 and 203-79 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 four-time All-MVC performer, earning first-team accolades in singles in 2011 and all-select recognition in 2013, while being honored in doubles in 2011 and 2012.  Ghorbel 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 and 2013 after collecting first-team recognition in doubles in each of his first three campaigns.

On the strength of as many as five Bulldogs owning national singles rankings this spring, Drake is rated No. 31 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 returned eight letterwinners from a squad that finished the 2012 spring campaign with a No. 47 national ranking.

Senior Anis Ghorbel maintained a national singles ranking when the latest ratings were released on May 2, coming in at No. 65.

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.

•    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 (April 13).  With his doubles win over Bradley (April 21) he became only the fourth Bulldog to surpass the 200-win plateau and he now owns 203 career victories. He needs three wins to equal Dalibor Pavic (2004-08) and Robert Novotny (1993-97) for second place all-time at Drake.
•    Senior Jean Erasmus is eighth in school history with 179 career victories.  He is five wins shy of surpassing Ross Nwachukwu (1990-94) for seventh place on the Drake career leaderboard.
•    The Bulldogs are making their third trip to California this spring when they square off against TCU. Drake posted a 1-1 mark at the ITA Kickoff Weekend (Jan. 26-27) in Malibu, Calif., before going 2-1 at the Hilton San Diego Mission Valley Spring Classic (March 21-23).  All five matches were against squads that were either nationally ranked at the time of the encounter or had been nationally ranked during the spring campaign.
•    Drake currently owns a 32-match homecourt winning streak dating back to the 2010 campaign.
•    Sophomore Ben Mullis is riding a nine-match winning streaks in singles play, while senior Anis Ghorbel has captured five straight victories.
•    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 97-30 career singles ledger.
•     Goodman, McKie and Alen Salibasic have surpassed the combined 50-win plateau this season as the trio owns 64, 64 and 56 victories, respectively.
•    Led by a 20-3 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 17-7 record courtesy of Goodman.
•    Goodman leads with 36 singles wins, while Salibasic and McKie have each posted 33 victories.
•    McKie, Goodman, Ghorbel and Salibasic pace the Bulldogs with 31, 28, 23 and 23 doubles triumphs, respectively.
•    Goodman directs Drake with a 64-15 combined singles/doubles ledger.  He is followed by McKie (64-19), Salibasic (56-24), Erasmus (43-21), Ben Mullis (41-12), Anis Ghorbel (40-16), Lott (37-12), Tesmer (26-9) and Ryan Drake (18-12).
•    Only one Drake player in singles has suffered double-digit setbacks this season.

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.

A pair of victories gives Drake a berth into the round of 16 at the NCAA Championship in Champaign, Ill., while a single loss will close one of the most successful campaigns in program history.

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