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Women’s tennis bounces back in conference-opener

BY ROBBIE LEHMAN | MARCH 2, 2009 7:30 AM

Fans at the Hawkeye Tennis & Recreation Complex cheered with joy and applauded the hard work of the Iowa women’s tennis team Sunday as it came from behind to upset No. 52 Minnesota, 4-3, in its first Big Ten match of the season.

The dual meet was the most competitive of the year for the Hawkeyes (6-5, 1-0), both in terms of scores and emotions. Players from both teams expressed themselves with either a yell or a fist pump after nearly every point. The momentum shifted for each team several times throughout the meet.

Iowa didn’t have any momentum after dropping all three doubles matches. Yet somehow, the Hawkeyes managed to find some to win five of the six first sets in singles. Hawkeye head coach Daryl Greenan, now 5-0 against the Golden Gophers, was extremely pleased.

“We did something special after being swept in doubles,” he said. “We came back on fire in singles. That set the tone right there.”

Iowa sophomore Jessica Young made fast work of Minnesota’s Magdalena Wiecha in the No. 5 match, winning (6-0, 6-3). Next to finish was No. 98 ranked freshman Sonja Molnar, taking down her No. 1 counterpart Alessandra Ferrazzi (6-2, 6-1) to improve her singles record to 10-1 on the season. Sophomore Alexis Dorr lost (7-5, 6-3) in the No. 2 match to Karina Chiarelli to set the score at 2-2.

The final three matches were filled with suspense. Iowa sophomore Lynne Poggensee-Wei battled in an up-and-down No. 3 match with Niltooli Wilkins, going deep into the third set to pull out a 7-6, 0-6, 6-0 win that put Iowa up 3-2. Then junior Kelcie Klockenga sealed the victory for the Hawkeyes when she overcame her No. 4 opponent, Tijana Koprivica (6-4, 0-6, 6-2).

In the No. 6 match, freshman Ally Majercik sprained her knee early on and struggled while continuing to play. With the score at 6-1, 3-6, 1-2, and the meet already determined, Majerick decided to retire due to injury.

Greenan gave credit to the Golden Gophers, but he more admired his team’s effort.

“Minnesota did not go away,” he said. “It is a good team. [The Gophers] were very scrappy. I’m impressed with the way the women stepped up and finished them.”

Iowa knows how important winning the doubles point is, but the players also understand that there is still a lot of tennis to play in the six singles matches.

“Winning the doubles point is kind of a momentum thing,” Poggensee-Wei said. “Because then you know you only have to split in singles. But overall, it’s just one point.”

She had confidence in herself to keep playing her game even though she experienced some difficulties in the second set of her match.

“I had a little lull in the middle,” she said. “I felt a little shaky, but I knew I was up a set. I was able to get it back together in the end.”

Klockenga didn’t practice on Feb. 27 because of illness, and she played through a cold on Sunday, having to take a break in the middle of her match. This didn’t stop her from giving Iowa its first Big Ten win of the spring.

“I started to regroup and cool down,” she said. “I told myself to fight it out. Once I got the momentum in the last set, I was able to capitalize and finish it off.”

Injuries and illness (even Greenan was coaching with a cold) couldn’t stop Iowa. Up next for the Hawkeyes is a road trip to Notre Dame on Friday. Majercik hopes she’d be ready to go by then, but if not, junior co-captain Jen Barnes will fill the No. 6 spot. Senior cocaptain Merel Beelen, out with an abdominal injury, is hoping to make a return to Iowa’s lineup soon after spring break.


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