The Drake men's tennis team opens its spring campaign this weekend as the Bulldogs host the Missouri Valley Conference Individuals at the Roger Knapp Tennis Center.
The three-day tournament will run from Friday (Jan. 18) through Sunday (Jan. 20) with participating schools being Bradley, Creighton, Drake, Illinois State, Southern Illinois and Wichita State. Action gets underway with singles play on Friday at 8:30 a.m. and continues at 9:00 a.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.
DRAKE GARNERS ITA PRESEASON RANKINGS On the strength of four Bulldogs garnering national singles rankings, Drake enters its 2013 season rated No. 45 in the initial 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 (Sfax, Tunisia) and James McKie (Edinburgh, Scotland) along with sophomores Alen Salibasic (Tuzla, Bosnia & Herzegovina) and Ben Mullis (Leicestershire, England) 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 was Ghorbel, McKie, Salibasic, Mullis, junior Robin Goodman (Cambridge, England) and freshmanBen Lott(Newcastle, England), 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.
A LOOK BACK AT THE 2012 MVC INDIVIDUALS Drake captured a school-record tying eight titles on the final day of the State Farm MVC Individuals on Jan. 22, 2012 at the Roger Knapp Tennis Center.
Competition kicked off with all three of the Bulldogs' doubles teams winning their respective semifinal matches to advance to the championship round.
The tandem of Robin Goodman and Alen Salibasic earned the Bulldogs' first title dispatching Illinois State's Jordan Badenko and Willi Peter, 8-3, at No. 2.
The duo of Anis Ghorbel and Cesar Bracho then added a second championship at No. 3, besting Juan Estenssoro and Nestor Perez of Wichita State, 8-4. It was the second doubles crown for Ghorbel after pairing with Mauricio Ballivian to win the No. 1 title in 2011.
Jonathan Hadash collected Drake's third title at No. 6 singles, downing Bradley's Eric Nguyen, 6-3, 6-3. James McKie then won his second career championship registering a 6-2, 6-1 triumph over Skip Span of Illinois State at No. 3. McKie had previously claimed a title at the No. 5 position as a freshman in 2010.
Jean Erasmus (Windhoek, Namibia) also pulled in his second career crown dealing Tuomas Manner of Illinois State a 6-3, 6-0 setback at the No. 2 slot.
Goodman followed by adding his second title of the day downing Illinois State's Peter, 6-3, 6-2 at the No. 5 position.
On the strength of rallying to win a first-set tiebreaker, Salibasic staked claim to his second championship of the day defeating Tomislav Gregurovic from Wichita State at No. 4 singles, 7-6 (3), 6-4.
Rounding out the victory parade to help the Bulldogs sweep the top-six titles was Ghorbel, who wrapped up the competition edging Alex Pelaez of Illinois State, 7-6 (6), 6-0 in the top singles draw.
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, 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.
UP NEXT Drake opens the dual match portion of its schedule traveling to Malibu, Calif., to compete in the ITA Kickoff Weekend. The Bulldogs will battle No. 32 Florida State on Jan. 26 before facing either No. 7 Pepperdine or No. 54 Denver on Jan. 27.