URBANA, Ill. -- It came down to a 4-3 decision again, but this time, it was Memphis (15-5) that prevailed against Drake 4-3 in NCAA first-round action on Friday afternoon.
"I'm so proud of these guys," Memphis head coach Paul Goebel said. "It was really tough conditions out here [Friday] and you just really had to persevere through some shots and we did a great job of that [Friday]. And Drake is such a great team, we really had a battle with them a couple of times already."
The morning began with the location of the match in doubt. Rain had moved through the Champaign/Urbana area overnight and into the morning and was pushed out by winds gusting close to 20 mph. College tennis' rule is if wind gusts are 20 mph or more for three consecutive projected hours, the match moves indoors. The projections for Friday's match were 21, 20 and 19, so the match was played outdoors.
Memphis gusted out a 1-0 lead with wins at two and three doubles. The doubles team of Cedric De Zutter and Connor Glennon picked up the first win of the afternoon, with an 8-4 win at two doubles. The other two doubles matches were tightly contested. The No. 1 team of David O'Hare and Joe Salisbury opened their doubles match with a break, but gave it back, eventually trailing 6-5 on serve. But at 7-6, Salisbury held his serve, forcing the tiebreak. Again, Memphis jumped up early, leading 2-0 in the tiebreak, but again the doubles team of Robin Goodman and Ben Lott battled back. The match would knot up at 2-all and 5-all in the breaker, but on the adjacent court, the No. 2 team of Ian Chadwell and Johnny Grimal beat the No. 1 doubles match to the finish line. Grimal hit a winner up the line and then volleyed two balls out of reach with the Tigers leading 7-6 and 40-15 in the game. The duo closed the match at three doubles with the break, pushing the Tigers ahead 1-0 following doubles play.
The lead was briefly 2-0, as Joe Salisbury downed Ben Lott 6-3, 6-3 at No. 2 singles. But Drake answered back with a 6-3, 6-3 win at No. 3 a minute later to keep within one at 2-1 down. The Bulldogs knotted that score at 2-all with a 6-2, 6-4 win at No. 5 before Connor Glennon bounced back from a 7-5 first-set loss to win his match against No. 68 Alen Salibasic 5-7, 6-4, 6-3, pushing the score to 3-2 for the Tigers.
That moved everyone to the far end of the courts when the Nos. 4 and 6 matches were playing side-by-side. Memphis senior David O'Hare had battled through a first set to pick up a 7-5 win, but came up short 6-4, 6-3 in the second and third sets, and the match was tied at 3-all.
Dave O'Leary won his first set at No. 4, 7-5, coming back from a 3-0 deficit to start the match, but he split against the speedy Matt Frost, with Frost winning the second set 6-2, and forcing a third set just as Ben Mullis closed out the win at No. 6 singles, tying up team scores at 3-3.
But O'Leary was unfazed, opening the third set with a service break at 15 and adding a second break for a quick 3-0 lead in the set. He added a third service break and a service ace at 30-15, giving him match point. A four-shot rally ended the Tigers' way when a Drake shot went long, closing out the 6-0 third-set victory for the Tigers and giving Memphis its first win against Drake in four tries.