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Men’s tennis looking to tame Demons

BY AMIE KIEHN | FEBRUARY 27, 2009 7:30 AM

Doubles partners junior Reinoud Haal and senior Greg Holm are on the same level when on the tennis court — literally.

The two Hawkeye tennis players both stand more than six feet tall, and then some. Haal is 6-3, Holm 6-5.

“We’re both pretty tall … so it works out,” Holm said, smiling.

Their height advantage showed during their most recent doubles match against Drake, an 8-4 win.
“We kind of have a similar game, big serve, big reach,” Haal said. “We are volleying a lot better than last year and returning a lot better. We feel comfortable playing together, so it’s going well.”

The No. 2 pair, along with Iowa’s other doubles mates — No. 1 senior Christian Bierich and sophomore Nikita Zotov, No. 3 freshman Will Vasos and junior Tommy McGeorge — have dominated throughout the season. Iowa has yet to lose the doubles point in its 5-1 season, which is why the Hawkeyes are confident in their ability to prevail against DePaul on Saturday in the Hawkeye Tennis & Recreation Complex.

Although DePaul’s head coach is former Iowa assistant coach Matt Brothers, the team is still reveling in last season’s 6-1 victory over the Blue Demons.

“We played them last year and beat them pretty decisively,” Haal said. “They basically have the same team. [DePaul] has done well so far this year, so it will be a good match. [Brothers] knows most of us, what we like, what we don’t like — we’ll be fine.”

Iowa head coach Steve Houghton has good words for his former protégé.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for Matt,” said Houghton, who is in his 28th year at the helm for the Hawkeyes. “He was here for five years and was a very good assistant coach. He’s done a great job at DePaul. It had some good wins last year under his direction and this year, too.

“I’ll expect the match to be similar to Drake in terms of intensity.”

The win over Drake Wednesday had Houghton impressed with the direction his program is heading, especially with Bierich at the top spot. The senior came back to win his singles match after losing his first set (3-6) against the Bulldogs’ Maor Zirkin.

“[Wednesday] night, Christian was the one I felt best about,” Houghton said. “He, of course, has played at a high level since he’s been here, but really, even though he has won a couple matches, he has kind of struggled the last two, three or four matches.

“He just so happened to be playing probably as good of a guy as he played all year — if not better. I was pleased with him that he put it together and got a boost of confidence out of it.”

Finishing each match with same amount of vigor has something Haal said the team is improving on.

“I think in singles, me and some other guys, can improve on closing out matches,” Haal said. “We came out firing in doubles [against Drake], and we should do the same in singles.”


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