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Freshman Alen Salibasic
Courtesy: Chris Donahue

Top-Seed Drake Set To Begin State Farm MVC Men's Tennis Championship

Courtesy: Drake Athletics
         
Release: April 24, 2012
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WHAT'S AHEAD: The top-seeded Drake men's tennis team travels to Omaha, Neb., in search of the program's sixth NCAA Tournament berth in school history when the Bulldogs open competition at the State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Championship on Saturday (April 28).  Drake was awarded a bye into the semifinals by virtue of its regular season championship and awaits the winner of the No. 4 Illinois State and No. 5 Southern Illinois match.  A victory and the Bulldogs will play for the MVC title on Sunday (April 29) at 1:30 p.m.  If Drake is triumphant in both matches it would match a school record for wins (24) set in 2008.

A YEAR AGO: The 62nd-rated Bulldogs captured their fifth NCAA Tournament berth in school history, dispatching of Wichita State, 4-0, on May 1, 2011, in the title match of the State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Championship in St. Louis, Mo.

After falling at the No. 3 position, both of the remaining two doubles contests were forced into a seven-point tiebreaker to decide the outcome.

The tandem of James McKie (Edinburgh, Scotland) and Jean Erasmus (Windhoek, Namibia) came up clutch at the No. 2 slot as the duo bested Vlad Marinsecu and Guillermo Nicol in the tiebreaker, 7-1, to earn a 9-8 (1) decision and send all attention to the top doubles court.

With all eyes on their court, Mauricio Ballivian and Anis Ghorbel (Sfax, Tunisia) pulled out a 7-2 triumph in the tiebreaker to corral the doubles point, downing David Cavalcanti and Matheus Periera, 9-8 (2).

On the strength of the doubles point in its back pocket, Drake carried a wave of momentum into singles play.

Ballivian, the 2011 MVC Player of the Year, pushed the advantage to 2-0 dispatching of Marinescu at No. 1, 6-3, 6-2.  Ghorbel was equally impressive registering an identical, 6-3, 6-2, triumph over Periera at No. 2, to bring the Bulldogs to within one point of victory.

The attention then turned to the fourth singles court where McKie was battling Nicol. McKie came through with a 6-3, 7-5 victory to catapult Drake to its third MVC Championship title in the last five seasons.

A LOOK BACK: With one swing of the racket the deed had been done as freshman Alen Salibasic's (Tuzla, Bosnia&Herzegovina) second-set tiebreaker victory at the No. 4 position set a tidal wave of emotions out as 49th-rated Drake had accomplished its goal to win the MVC regular season crown. The Bulldogs registered a come-from-behind 4-3 triumph past Wichita State on Saturday (April 21) at the Roger Knapp Tennis Center.

The doubles portion of the affair proved to be a fierce battle between the two sides with Drake claiming a victory at the top slot, before the Shockers took a win at No. 2.

The deciding tilt occurred on court No. 3, where Salibasic and senior Cesar Bracho (Luque, Paraguay) were on the verge of earning the triumph leading 7-6, before Wichita State's duo of Juan Estenssoro and Erick Reyes battled back to force the tiebreaker and eventually post a 9-8 (4) decision to record the doubles point.

Never one to back down from a challenge, the Bulldogs garnered dominating efforts from the top of the line-up in singles play to set the stage for their comeback.

Looking to stake his claim to MVC Player of the Year accolades at No. 1, junior Anis Ghorbel evened the affair at one, downing Matheus Pereira, 6-2, 6-1.

Junior James McKie put Drake ahead to stay, dispatching David Cavalcanti on court No. 2, 7-6 (5), 6-0.

Junior Jean Erasmus stretched the Bulldogs' advantage to 3-1 after posting a 2-6, 6-2, 6-3 triumph over Guillermo Nicol at No. 4.

The Shockers inched closer with a victory at No. 3 before the climax of the match hit its crescendo with the efforts of Salibasic, one of the leading contenders for MVC Freshman of the Year honors.

After winning the first set by a 6-0 score, the second frame versus Reyes went down to the tiebreaker.  Salibasic jumped to within one point of victory at 6-4, before two unanswered tallies by Reyes made the tiebreaker all square at six.  Salibasic came up with two straight points to earn the triumph and send a jubilant group of Bulldogs towards Salibasic in celebration.

The Shockers posted a victory at the No. 6 position to close the scoring in the affair.

IN OUR LAST MEETINGS:

DRAKE 7, SOUTHERN ILLINOIS 0 (APRIL 15, 2012 - DES MOINES, IOWA): Drake posted a 7-0 victory over Southern Illinois at the Roger Knapp Tennis Center.

Drake opened its day sweeping the doubles competition with the duo Anis Ghorbel and James McKie notching the doubles tally on the strength of an 8-4 triumph on court No. 1.

Drake garnered victories in rapid-fire succession on courts two, four and six, to secure the Bulldogs' eighth-straight triumph.

First off the court was McKie, who bested Stanislas Rodier at the No. 2 position, 6-1, 6-1.  Within seconds, Jean Erasmus followed in triumph posting a 6-2, 6-1 decision past Orhan Spahic at No. 4.

Almost as quick as Erasmus had exited the court, sophomore Robin Goodman (Cambridge, England) clinched the match in favor of Drake at the No. 6 slot, by an identical 6-2, 6-1 score.

The Bulldogs also garnered victories on courts one, three and five.

Ghorbel netted a 6-2, 7-5 triumph on court No. 1, while senior Jonathan Hadash (Lapid, Israel) won at No. 3, 6-4, 6-1.  Alen Salibasic rounded out the victory column registering a 6-2, 6-0 triumph at No. 5.

DRAKE 6, ILLINOIS STATE 1 (APRIL 7, 2012 - NORMAL, ILL.): Posting 20 victories for the second-straight season, Drake recorded a 6-1 triumph at Illinois State.

Drake claimed the doubles point in the affair registering decisions at the Nos. 2 and 3 positions, including the duo of senior Cesar Bracho and Alen Salibasic clinching the deciding tally with an 8-3 victory at No. 3.

In singles, James McKie gave the Bulldogs a 2-0 lead after dispatching Tuomas Manner at the No. 2 hole, 6-3, 6-1.  Extending the margin to 3-0 at No. 5 was Salibasic, 6-2, 6-2.

Jonathan Hadash locked in win No. 20 for Drake, downing Skip Span at the No. 3 position, 6-4, 6-2.

The Bulldogs also garnered triumphs at the Nos. 4 and 6 slots from sophomore Robin Goodman and freshman Ben Mullis (Leicestershire, England).

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