As the fall portions of their respective seasons wound down, the Drexel men’s and women’s tennis teams were both looking to go into the break period with some positive showings in their final two fall events: the USTA/ITA Northeast Regionals Oct.18-23 at Yale University for the men, the United States Military Academy in West Point Oct. 19-23 for the women, and a home dual match Oct. 23 against Rider University.
Suffice it to say, both squads rose to the occasion in those events.
The Oct. 23 Rider dual matches were, for the most part, a relatively comfortable affair for the Dragons, as the men and women both swept Rider 7-0 in dominating fashion, winning the three doubles matches and the six singles matches. The women’s 7-0 victory, their second of the season, was especially dominating because they only lost a total of four games in singles and doubles play and saw second-seeded junior Zeynep Mafa, third-seeded sophomore Nicole Pivonka and fourth-seeded senior Emma Brook all win their matches in straight sets without conceding a single game.
Speaking afterward, head coach Mehdi Rhazali said that the result was never in doubt.
“We were expecting to win,” he said. “We try to treat these matches as if we’re playing a top, top team. We play the same way no matter who we face.”
At the men’s ITA regionals in New Haven, Conn., Drexel junior Skyler Davis moved on to the second round of the main draw by beating the University of Connecticut’s Jacob Spreyer 6-2, 2-6, 6-3. In his second-round match against Princeton University’s Augie Bloom, Davis played well but lost a very tough match in straight sets 6-4, 6-4. Nevertheless, Davis was impressive at the ITAs as the lone Drexel player to advance in a very difficult tournament overall.
That being said, the women’s regional saw the junior duo of Marcela Rosales and Zeynep Mafa advance into the main draw individually and in the doubles. Rosales and Mafa both went past the qualifying rounds, although it was Rosales who made the biggest impression in the tournament as far as Drexel was concerned. Rosales pulled off a shocking upset of Harvard University’s Natalie Blosser — nationally ranked in the top 50 — in the qualifiers and Quinnipiac University’s Rachel Cantor in the first round en route to the round of 64 in the main draw. In that round-of-64 match against Princeton’s Lindsay Graff, she lost the first set 6-0 but came back to win the second 7-6 before ultimately losing in the deciding third set 7-5.
Drexel’s fall portion of the season has seen the teams perform very well against tough opponents on an almost weekly basis, with their schedule putting them in invitational tournaments and others almost every weekend. Rhazali attributes such success to the nature of their practices.
“We don’t really treat our practices very lightly. My team treats our practices as if they were matches so that when they do ultimately play matches against other teams, they’ll be used to the intensity of the play,” he said.
November and December, while theoretically a lull in Dragon action, won’t really be so. The teams will be hard at work tinkering and improving their play.
“What we do is treat this as our preseason,” Rhazali said. “That’s the time when we do one-on-one instruction, strength training and conditioning, and other things. We had no time to work on our game during the fall season because we were very busy. Now we have the time to do before things resume,” he concluded.