The Drexel University women’s tennis team endured matches against two quality opponents on back-to-back days, ending the stretch with split results. The ladies began their busy weekend with a 6-1 victory against the Delaware State University Hornets Feb. 25 at the Drexel Armory.
All three Drexel doubles teams played very well, sweeping the Hornets and taking a lead in the team competition that they would never relinquish. The pair, consisting of senior Sonja Stosic and sophomore Zeynep Mafa, set the tone for the entire day with a smooth 8-1 win at No. 1 doubles. Senior Elise Leizerovich and sophomore Marcela Rosales then followed suit with an 8-1 victory of their own at No. 2, quickly obtaining the coveted doubles team point. It is no coincidence that the Dragons are playing so well in doubles competition of late.
“We are putting a lot of emphasis on doubles at our practices,” assistant coach Filip Kricka explained. “Getting that doubles point and starting the match with a 1-0 lead is extremely important and oftentimes a game decider.”
The women’s solid play carried over to singles, where they won five of their six matches, many of them by large margins. Leizerovich made a successful season debut in singles action after an injury-plagued first half, dispatching her opponent in an efficient 6-3, 6-0 win at the No. 4 spot.
Freshman Nicole Pivonka put forth one of her best efforts of the season thus far at No. 6, refusing to lose a single game in a 6-0, 6-0 triumph. The team’s coaches have come to expect this caliber of play from the freshman.
“Nicole has consistently been showing great performance day in and day out from the first day of the season,” Kricka said. “When she gets in her rhythm, it is very hard to beat her.”
Stosic won her No. 1 match 6-3, 6-4, and Mafa took the No. 2 contest 6-2, 6-0 to contribute to the team victory.
Less than 24 hours after their match against Delaware State, the Drexel women visited Annapolis, Md. Feb. 26 to take on the undefeated United States Naval Academy. Despite multiple inspired performances by the Dragons, Navy emerged on top by a score of 4-3.
Similar to the previous day, Drexel began the day on a positive note, winning two of three doubles matches and stealing the team point. Leizerovich and Rosales did not back down from their very good No. 2 doubles opponent, as they fought back to win 8-6. Kricka was ecstatic at the girls’ play, saying it was “perhaps the best doubles performance so far in the season.”
Mafa kept the team competition close with a 6-4, 6-2 win at No. 2 singles. The sophomore has caught fire of late, putting forth impressive performances over her last several matches.
“She is where she needs to be mentally and physically, and that is showing on her results,” Kricka explained. “She stuck to her game plan, maintained her focus to the last point and never allowed her opponent to find a rhythm.”
At No. 5 singles, sophomore Alex Bell won a grueling three-set match for the third time in as many weeks, taking this one 4-6, 6-4, 6-1. She has been able to win these trying matches repeatedly due to her superior strength, high level of conditioning, and mental toughness.
Rosales opened her No. 3 singles match in stellar fashion before fading in the final two sets and losing 6-0, 4-6, 0-6.
The men’s tennis team, on the other hand, hosted the Temple University Owls Feb. 27 at the Drexel Armory. The Dragons played hard but were ultimately shut out by the potent Owls en route to a season-high three-match losing streak.
Despite the losing streak, the team is not discouraged. Assistant coach Mehdi Rhazali stresses the importance of gleaning the positives out of every match, win or lose.
“I believe that small ‘yeses’ will lead you to the big ‘yes,’” Rhazali explained. “If we work hard and lose to tough teams like Temple, I still take the positive out of it. These positives are my small ‘yeses.’”
For the third straight time, the Drexel men were swept in doubles play and fell behind early in the team competition. Lack of aggression has been a theme for the Dragons recently, allowing their opponents to control the tempo of the matches. The freshman combination of Badr Ouabdelmoumen and Dan Koehler played the closest doubles match at No. 3, falling to Temple 8-5.
The results were not much better for Drexel in singles play, as the Dragons dropped all six matches. However, there were some highly contested matches that nearly went Drexel’s way.
Junior Jeganathan Srinivasan played very well in the No. 2 spot but could not capitalize on his momentum, eventually losing 7-5, 7-5. Even so, Rhazali was thoroughly impressed with Srinivasan’s effort.
“The only reason he lost was his mental toughness wasn’t there to hold his momentum, and he rushed on important points,” Rhazali commented. “It was a great match. It will help him gain more experience that he will use later on.”
Senior Bryan Nguyen also played an extremely close match, winning the only set on the day for Drexel and competing vigorously until the last point. In the end, he fell 4-6, 7-5, 5-7.
The men’s and women’s teams both return to action March 3 against Wagner College at the Armory.