Auburn downs Drake in NCAA opener
Tigers top Bulldogs in four-hour match, advance to second round
URBANA, Ill. -- No. 17 Auburn battled Drake for more than four hours on Friday afternoon before finally claiming a 4-2 victory at the University of Illinois' Kahn Outdoor Tennis Complex to advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Auburn (18-9) won its first-round match in the NCAA tournament for the sixth consecutive season and improved to 2-0 all-time against Drake (24-3).
"It was a tough match," Auburn head coach Eric Shore said. "Drake came to play and had a lot of energy. Doubles came right down to the end. We hung in there and somehow got the doubles point. And they didn't go away in singles. They showed they were a good team. I was impressed with them.
"We've got to come out better. The first round is always tough, not just because of the competition, but when you haven't played a match in three weeks, that makes it tough. We've just got to come out better at the start [Saturday]."
The team match came down to a pair of three-set affairs at the No. 3 and No. 6 singles spot, and Auburn's two competitors -- Daniel Cochrane and Lukas Ollert -- appeared to have just a bit more in the tank than their Drake counterparts.
"I think the heat [may have been a factor], although it wasn't that hot," Shore said. "We're kind of used to that. Our guys were hurting there at the end like their guys were. It was tough all the way around."
The Tigers got on the board first after taking a hard-fought doubles point. Drake's team of Robin Goodman and Jean Erasmus struck first on court two, breaking Auburn's serve three times to take an 8-3 win against Dennis Lengsfeld and Lucas Lopasso. But just a few moments later, the Tigers' team of Daniel Cochrane and Lukas Ollert posted an 8-3 victory against Alen Salibasic and Cesar Bracho to even things up at a match apiece.
Court one saw a battle to the very last point. Auburn's ninth-ranked team of Andreas Mies and Alex Stamchev went up a break early in the match, only to see Drake break back to make it 3-3. The Bulldogs' team of James McKie and Anis Ghorbel would then take the advantage a few games later, breaking Stamchev's serve to take a 5-4 lead. Auburn then evened things up with another break of their own to knot the match at 6-6; it would be 7-6 after the Tigers held on to win their service game after fighting off two break point opportunities for the Bulldogs.
Drake would then jump out 40-love in the ensuing game, but the Tigers would claw their way back to deuce. A double-fault would give Auburn the advantage and a match-point opportunity, and Stamchev took advantage of a second serve to put away the clinching point.
The Tigers took a 2-0 lead when 18th-ranked Mies made quick work of Ghorbel on court one, winning 6-3, 6-3. It was Mies' 15th win in dual play this year and 27th overall in singles, moving him into a tie for 11th all-time in single-season singles victories at Auburn.
But Drake would not go quietly. The Bulldogs knotted the score at two apiece with wins on courts four and five. Drake's Salibasic used a pair of early breaks to outlast Lopasso, 6-4, 6-4, at the fourth position to make it 2-1. And Lengsfeld dropped the first set of his match with Goodman, 6-0, before clawing back and forcing a second-set tiebreaker. He would eventually fall in the breaker, 7-5, and drop the match, 6-0, 7-6.
The Tigers retook the lead as Stamchev came back to earn a 6-4, 7-5 win over McKie after trailing 3-0 in the second set. Along with his win in doubles, the Auburn senior now has 211 career combined victories (107 doubles, 104 singles).
But the final two matches of the day would come down to a third set. With both Cochrane and Ollert grinding it out against their equally exhausted Drake opponents, Ollert was able to seal a victory first as he claimed a 6-3, 1-6, 6-3 win over Ben Mullis on court six. Cochrane, who fought his way back from a 3-0 second-set deficit only to lose the set 6-4, was a game away from clinching on court three when play was suspended.