Drexel’s tennis teams had mixed results in the Colonial Athletic Association Championship quarterfinals, but both the men’s and women’s seasons were done before the final matches of the tournament were played April 21.
The women’s team fell to the rival University of Delaware in a tough 4-0 showing, as they were victims of matches ending before they had a chance to win a few points from the Blue Hens. Yet head coach Mehdi Rhazali was pleased with his team’s fight and resolve throughout the weekend’s matches.
“I am satisfied with the performance,” Rhazali said when asked about his opinion on the women’s team’s matchup against Delaware. “We really did what we could and fought hard, and that’s what matters to me.”
His appreciation of their fight, however, did not mean that Rhazali was without qualms over the way they executed the matches.
“On the women’s side, I believe we could have beat Delaware,” Rhazali said. “If we could have played more aggressively and positioned ourselves better on the court, it would have helped us put more pressure [on Delaware’s players]. Also, our returns were not very consistent. … In singles, definitely concentration and staying positive through the match is a key in college tennis. Technically, we were decent. Physically, we were strong, but our mental toughness wasn’t enough that day.”
The perceived lack of mental toughness showed; not one team point came the Dragons’ way. After losing the doubles point in decisive fashion, as Delaware’s two victorious doubles matches came at a combined score of 16-4, the Dragons were unable to shake the missed point in singles play.
Junior Marcela Rosales fell to Delaware’s Nataliya Naumova in decisive fashion, with Rosales only managing two games against Naumova in the No. 3 match. Senior Emma Brook fell to Delaware’s Olivia Heim in two sets after dropping a tiebreaker set in the first and then succumbing 6-2 in the second. The final Blue Hens point came when Delaware’s Kim Milla defeated Aysenil Orhon in the No. 6 match by a score of 6-3, 6-4.
But Rhazali did not see the efforts as the defining characteristic of the women’s season. He cited their numerous awards throughout at the CAA awards banquet, as well as their ability to fight through injuries during the season, as the defining moments of the women’s team’s efforts this year.
The men’s team was able to stretch its season past Delaware 4-3 in the quarterfinals before finding the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s nationally ranked team too hot to handle, falling 4-0 in a tennis tour de force from the Seahawks.
The men’s first-round matchup was no breeze for the Dragons. Badr Ouabdelmoumen and Xabier Saavedra won their match 8-4, and Skyler Davis and Dan Koehler won their match 8-3, winning the Dragons the doubles point.
“But the excitement didn’t last too long,” Rhazali commented on the men’s games. “We dropped the first set in every match except at No. 5 singles.”
With a poor start in the singles matches, it took an impressive display of depth from the men’s team to defeat the Blue Hens, even with their top two players, Ouabdelmoumen and Jeganathan Srinivasan, losing their respective singles matches.
With the two teams locked at 3-3 after Davis and Alex Fioravante won their singles matches, the final point came down to the match between Saavedra and Delaware’s Mike Furr.
After the first two sets went to tiebreakers and were split by the two, Saavedra was able to wrest the match from Furr with a 6-3 victory in the third set, which gave him two wins on the day, half of his team’s points.
“It was a great feeling,” Rhazali said when asked about watching the freshman win the match for his team.
But the Dragons were unable to keep that great feeling alive when they met UNCW in the second round, losing all four matches that finished.
Rhazali saw the pairing with the Seahawks simply as a mismatch.
“Against UNCW it was very tough to keep our mindset in the match,” Rhazali said. “UNCW has a great record and is a nationally ranked team, but our team did what they could. … We obviously need a lot of work to do in order to be able to beat a ranked team.”
Despite both teams being eliminated before the final matches, Rhazali had a positive, forward-thinking message for his program and Dragons tennis fans everywhere:
“This is my first season as head coach,” Rhazali said. “I am satisfied with our effort and performance this year. … One step at a time.”