Tennis season has returned following its winter break, and both the men and women returned to the courts for Drexel. The men split a pair of weekend contests Jan. 26-27, and the women defeated Lehigh University Jan. 26.
The weekend began with the two teams having split results in Bethlehem, Pa. The men got off to a strong start, as Skyler Davis and Badr Ouabdelmoumen won the opening doubles set. The team would then go on to lose every match until Xavier Saavedra won his No. 5 match 6-2, 6-3.
The Drexel men would go on to lose for the first time in the 2012-13 season, falling to Lehigh 6-1.
Knowing Lehigh’s roster, head coach Mehdi Rhazali was not discouraged by the loss. He saw a few positives that he was able to take away from it.
“The loss was tough, going up against Lehigh,” Rhazali said. “The guys played really well and applied what we did in practice.”
The women’s trip to Lehigh went much better than they might have hoped, with injuries to Amanda Tilles and Erin Bowsher. The ladies defeated the Mountain Hawks 5-2.
The doubles pairings of Zeynep Mafa and Marcela Rosales, Alex Bell and Nicole Pivonka, and Aysenil Orhon and Mel Reyes swept their Lehigh opponents. In singles, Mafa, Bell, Pivonka and Orhon were victorious again, as the Dragons took four of the six singles matches en route to the 5-2 victory.
Rhazali was very proud of the performance by the women.
“We had to play with substitutes and other players that do not have match play or official match experience,” Rhazali said. “I thought they played really well and handled the pressure well.”
Rhazali also indicated that Tilles, who suffered a dislocated knee, could be nearing a return.
“She’s much better, just got back next week to our first practice,” Rhazali said. “I would say that she could have played at Lehigh, but I just did not want to take that risk and save her for now, treating the injury one step at a time. … She played very well in practice, but with the knee it depends on the day and how much rest she gets. I would say she might play at least doubles.”
The men got back in the win column Jan. 27 with a 7-0 victory at home against Saint Francis University. Ouabdelmoumen and Davis continued their strong weekend with another doubles victory. Saavedra, meanwhile, continued his own big weekend with a doubles victory and a two-set singles win.
Saavedra, who was ruled ineligible by the NCAA for much of the fall, performed in only his second and third matches of the year. Despite the inexperience, he was able to capture the CLEAR Athlete of the Week honor from Drexel Athletics. Rhazali has high expectations for his freshman, and the reason why was on display in these matches.
“I always thought the guy could be a star here. He’s a freshman, and he has a lot of energy, which he brings to the match,” Rhazali said. “He’s awesome to have around because of that, and with [Saavedra], I believe he practiced well. He’s a complete player. For him it’s just staying mentally focused.”
Overall, Rhazali seemed rather pleased with his teams’ performances over the weekend, with maybe one team looking just better than the other.
“Both teams are looking good,” he said. “I would say that the men’s are looking a little better. On the women’s side we did things fine this weekend against Lehigh.”
The women will get back at it Tuesday, Feb. 5, at Saint Peter’s University, while the men will not return to the courts until Feb. 10 against Morgan State University. They are in satisfactory shape physically, but it is about staying in the moment mentally as they go forward.
“I think fitnesswise, we are in our best shape,” Rhazali said. “We come out of the fall having played four tournaments, so we have great match experience. They just have to keep the moment in their favor and try and win the important points.”