September 28, 2012 by Brian PalmerThe weekend of Sept. 21 marked the beginning of a new era for Drexel tennis as Mehdi Rhazali completed his first tournament as the new head coach of Drexel men’s and women’s tennis. Coming into the new season, Rhazali expected a lot from his young team, especially with the addition of new assistant coach Kristen Harris. Harris was a former No. 1 player at Temple University and an assistant coach at Howard University. Both Rhazali and Harris instituted a new training program over the summer in order to get their team ready for the new season. The team had a very short preseason that consisted of playing in many tournaments in order to prepare for the rigors of the tough Colonial Athletic Association schedule.
“From a coaching standpoint they worked on playing smart tennis and positioning on the court during practices. They did a lot of plyometrics, agility and balance. They have helped the coaches to focus more on the game, and not having to worry about fitness is key,” Rhazali said. The team got in terrific shape as a result, and it showed in the team’s first contest.
Sophomore Badr Ouabdelmoumen made Drexel history in his first tournament of the season. Ouabdelmoumen became the first men’s tennis player to win a Flight One main draw at the Saint Joseph’s Invitational. In the finals, Ouabdelmoumen went up against Troy Beneck, who is one of the CAA’s best players. Ouabdelmoumen dropped the first set but rebounded strongly to win the second set. In the tiebreaker, Ouabdelmoumen used every ounce of energy he could to earn the 6-7, 6-1, 10-8 match victory. Throughout the tournament Ouabdelmoumen defeated athletes from Lafayette College, Bucknell University, and a pair of Blue Hens from the University of Delaware including Beneck. Ouabdelmoumen was not the only male Dragon who played well during the tournament. Junior Skyler Davis performed very well in the tournament as well, playing his way to the semifinals, where he fell to Beneck.
In the second flight of the tournament, senior Jeganathan Srinivasan and sophomore Dan Hansen defeated competitors from Army, Hofstra University and Saint Joseph’s University to reach the finals of their doubles draw. The doubles pair of Ryan Peyton and Chris Seitz of Villanova University waited. The Dragons doubles team defeated Villanova 8-6. Junior Paul Stauskas advanced to the semifinals of the third flight, where he fell to Mike Rosengren of Villanova. In the consolation draw the remaining Dragons performed very well. With wins over Delaware, Army and Lafayette, sophomore Dan Koehler went on to win the Consolation Fourth Flight. Koehler then teamed with new transfer Tyler Pultro to advance to the doubles finals of that flight.
Rhazali was very impressed with what he saw from his men’s team in the opening tournament.
“They played very well for the first tournament. They have developed a strong bond throughout the first couple weeks,” Rhazali said.
The women participated in the Cissie Leary Invitational at the University of Pennsylvania to kick off their season. The doubles pairing of juniors Marcela Rosales and Zeynep Mafa performed very well, and they advanced to the round of 16 in the main draw. On their way they defeated The University of Akron pairing of Ksenia Berestetska and Signe Lazolina 8-5. They then defeated the University of Maryland’s Sarah Gealar and Mikele Irazusta in the round of 32 by the same score. Rosales and Mafa lost in the quarter to the top-seeded pairing of Yale University’s Amber Li and Hanna Yu. The match was closely contested as shown in the final score of 8-7 (4). Rhazali praised his No. 1 doubles pairing for putting up a tough fight and competing against such a top opponent.
“They really played well, Marcela and Zeynep; to lose to the No. 1 seed by one point was tough,” he said.
Freshman Erin Bowsher advanced to the semifinals of the consolation draw in her first collegiate tournament. Senior Emma Brook also advanced to the semifinals of that draw along with sophomore Nicole Pivonka. Pivonka went onto the finals, where she lost to Amber Washington.
Rhazali expects his Dragons to compete well in every match they play this season because he believes he has a team that can compete with anyone.
“The goal is to be tough mentally because it’s just you, the net and the opponent. It’s trying to teach them how to deal with situations on their own. Doing this right every time, it will help us get at least to the quarterfinals of the CAA Tournament and have a winning record on both [the] men[’s] and women’s sides.”
The Dragons will look to continue their outstanding performances Sept. 28-30 in order to reach their coach’s goals. The men will be at the University of Pennsylvania while the women will be at the Saint Joseph’s Invitational.