CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The 48-ranked Drake men's tennis team battled down to the wire in its NCAA Tournament showdown with No. 17 Auburn on Friday before the Tigers garnered a 4-2 victory at the Khan Tennis Center on the campus of the University of Illinois.
The setback draws to a close one of the most successful campaigns in school history as the Bulldogs finish their season at 24-3.
The two points scored in the contest represent the most recorded by the Bulldogs since Drake's initial NCAA Tournament appearance in 1992, a 5-4 loss to Harvard.
The match came down to a pair of three-set contests in singles at the Nos. 3 and 6 positions, respectively, to decide the winner.
Senior Jonathan Hadash and freshman Ben Mullis each recorded second-set triumphs for Drake to force the winner-take-all final stanzas.
In the final set, Mullis fell behind 5-1 to Lukas Ollert, before rallying to cut the margin to 5-3. Ollert though persevered to clinch the match for Auburn, posting a 6-3, 1-6, 6-3 victory.
The showdown at No. 3 between Hadash and Daniel Cochrane was then halted with the Tigers leading, 5-4.
The Bulldogs came out in dominating fashion in doubles at No. 2 as the duo of junior Jean Erasmus (Windhoek, Namibia) and sophomore Robin Goodman (Cambridge, England), after dropping the first game, rattled off five unanswered tallies against Dennis Lengsfeld and Lucas Lopasso to assume a 5-1 lead. The Tigers netted two of the next three points, before the Bulldogs closed out the match winning the final two games to register an 8-3 triumph.
After falling behind at the No. 3 position versus Cochrane and Ollert, 4-1, the tandem of senior Cesar Bracho (Luque, Paraguay) and freshman Alen Salibasic (Tuzla, Bosnia&Herzegovina) whittled the deficit back to 6-4. Auburn though garnered wins in two of the next three games to collect an 8-5 victory.
All eyes turned to the top court where a battled ensued between juniors Anis Ghorbel (Sfax, Tunisia) and James McKie (Edinburgh, Scotland) and Auburn's Andy Mies and Alex Stamchev. The ninth-rated Tigers' duo took three of the first four games before the Bulldogs rallied back. In both the fifth and six games, respectively, Drake overcame 30-0 deficits to win the games and even the affair at three.
After dropping the next game, the Bulldogs posted three-straight victories to assume a 6-4 lead. Auburn responded by taking the next two contests to square the contest at six.
Both sides held advantages in the 13th game serving for the point, but it was Auburn that was able to convert to win the point and eventually the match, 8-6.
Capturing first-set wins at the Nos. 4 and 5 singles slots, respectively, for Drake was Salibasic and Goodman. Downing Lengsfeld at No. 5, 6-0, was Goodman, while Salibasic bettered Lopasso, 6-4.
The Tigers surged ahead with victories in the initial frame on courts No. 1, 2, 3 and 6.
Auburn extended its lead to 2-0 after 18th-ranked Mies dealt Ghorbel a 6-3, 6-3 setback at No. 1.
The Bulldogs continued to fight in the second sets as Drake held advantages or were tied in the remaining five contests.
Salibasic cut the Bulldogs' deficit to 2-1 dispatching Lopasso at No. 4, 6-4, 6-4.
Goodman erased a 6-5 second-set deficit to force the tiebreaker, where he prevailed 7-5, to even the affair at two with a 6-0, 7-6 (5) win over Lengsfeld.
Pushing the Tigers back in front, 3-2, was 68th-ranked Stamchev, who edged McKie at No. 2, 6-4, 7-5.
Fighting back to take the second set, 6-1, to force the tiebreaker at No. 6 singles against Ollert was Mullis, while Hadash took the second frame at No. 3, 6-3.
NO. 17 AUBURN (18-9) DEF. NO. 48 DRAKE (24-3), 4-2
No. 1 No. 18 Andy Mies (AUB) def. Anis Ghorbel (DU), 6-3, 6-3
No. 2 No. 68 Alex Stamchev (AUB) def. James McKie (DU), 6-4, 7-5
No. 3 Daniel Cochrane (AUB) vs. Jonathan Hadash (DU), 6-3, 3-6, 5-4 unfinished
No. 4 Alen Salibasic (DU) def. Lucas Lopasso (AUB), 6-4, 6-4
No. 5 Robin Goodman (DU) def. Dennis Lengsfeld (AUB), 6-0, 7-6 (5)
No. 6 Lukas Ollert (AUB) def. Ben Mullis (DU), 6-3, 1-6, 6-3
Order of finish: (1,4,5,2,6)
No. 1 No. 9 Mies/Stamchev (AUB) def. Ghorbel/McKie (DU), 8-6
No. 2 Jean Erasmus/Goodman (DU) def. Lengsfeld/Lopasso (AUB), 8-3
No. 3 Cochrane/Ollert (AUB) def. Cesar Bracho/Salibasic (DU), 8-4
Order of finish: (2,3,1)