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Men’s tennis downs Drake

BY AMIE KIEHN | FEBRUARY 26, 2009 7:37 AM

Click here to view an exclusive photo slideshow from the match.

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Game. Set. Match.

Amid controversy over calls, the Iowa men’s tennis team prevailed and clinched its first win over Drake since 2005.

The 5-2 victory displayed the growth and talent of the Hawkeyes this spring. Sickness had surrounded the team in the last few weeks, especially for junior Reinoud Haal.

“I had some sort of the flu; I just had a fever and my throat hurt a lot,” Haal said. “I was really tired and couldn’t really move, but it’s gone now.”

His healthy return to competition was apparent in Wednesday’s dual meet against the Bulldogs. Haal and doubles partner Greg Holm dominated their opponents with sharp volleying and swift serves.

Iowa head coach Steve Houghton was relieved to have his team healthy.

“Illness wasn’t a factor at all,” he said. “The guys played with a lot of energy, especially in the doubles. We really came out playing well in doubles.

“Drake is a good enough team that it’s very difficult to put them away. The final score was 5-2, but it had its moments where it could have gone either way. It also had its moments where I thought we might win 6-1 or 7-0.”

After losing 5-2 to the Bulldogs last season, Haal and his teammates hungered for vengeance.

“It was intense,” he said. “We lost to them last year, and we really wanted to win it last year and that was one of our bad losses, so we wanted revenge now.”

The Hawkeyes’ redemption was not instantaneous, it was a fiery three-and-a-half hour battle.
The Bulldogs were dissatisfied with officiating throughout the match.

“For whatever reason, when we play Drake there has been a lot of [challenging of plays], going back and forth,” Houghton said.

In sophomore Nikita Zotov’s match against Drake’s Evegeny Silitski, Silitski’s frustrations were visible after one of Zotov’s serves was called in. Silitski threw his racquet and yelled at the line judge to pay better attention during the match.

Zotov, a native of Russia, won the singles match (6-1, 6-3) against his Belarusian opponent and brushed off the controversy.

“You know when two Eastern European guys play, it is always complicated,” Zotov joked.

Despite the controversy over officiating in both Zotov’s and senior Greg Holm’s matches against Ivan Mendoza, beating the Bulldogs was a big confidence booster for Iowa.

“Everyone was greatly motivated to win, and I think you could see it in doubles. Everyone just came out ready to fight,” Haal said. “So I mean, doubles, we had a good feeling, and we carried it over to singles.”

Iowa will play its next dual meet at home against DePaul on Saturday.


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