Men’s tennis dominates against DePaul

BY AMIE KIEHN | MARCH 2, 2009 7:30 AM

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After the Iowa men’s tennis team clinched its sixth win of the season against DePaul on Feb. 28, the Hawkeyes say they feel elated.

“The team is on cloud nine right now,” Iowa freshman Will Vasos said. “We’ve had a great week.”
The Hawkeyes beat Drake, 5-2, on Feb. 25 and saw that momentum continue in their 6-1 victory over the Blue Demons.

“Everybody feels real good about the wins,” Iowa head coach Steve Houghton said. “I think in a lot of ways the Drake win was good, but this win [against DePaul] may be even better. The team has beaten some really good teams.”

Although the final score underscores Iowa’s domination, it doesn’t reveal that the dual meet was a contentious battle. DePaul’s head coach is former Hawkeye assistant Matt Brothers, who has extensive knowledge about the Hawkeyes’ skill sets.

DePaul’s preparation showed on the court.

“At one time on the scoreboard, Christian [Bierich] was basically winning, but every other match was 6-5 at the time of the first set,” said Houghton, who is in 28th season as Iowa’s head coach. “We did a really good job after we won a close first set in really destroying our opponents in the second set. I was really impressed with all that.”

Despite losing 8-4 in doubles with partner sophomore Nikita Zotov, Bierich adjusted his strategy in singles and dominated opponent Austin Doerner (6-2, 6-1). Doerner’s exceptional volleying skills were diminished because of injury in the pair’s second matchup in singles. Doerner’s upper thigh was aching from being hit with one of Bierich’s powerful returns in doubles and he called for an injury time-out during the second set in singles.

The time-out acted like a switch for Bierich — his play immediately intensified.

“If you see someone a little bit weaker, you need to jump on him,” he said. “[You] just go at him and win as quick as possible when he is hurt. [Doerner] was a little mentally off, couldn’t move as well so it was tough for him, very frustrating.”

Vasos’ intensity also increased in his singles match. After winning the first set, 7-5, the Fort Collins, Colo., native fell to Bartosz Jozwiak in the second set, 7-6, which forced the match into a tie-breaker.
“[My stragety] was to keep balls in, but then I realized that I needed to be more aggressive, so I kind of amped it up a little bit and it seemed to be working,” Vasos said.

Vasos tired out Jozwiak and won the tiebreaker, 16-14, while his family cheered from the observation deck.

“I am very happy with Will to win a really, a big understatement, but really a close one in his match,” Houghton said. “He really came up with some big shots when he needed to.”

While Vasos play was exceptional, Houghton was equally impressed with each of his six starters.

“Christian’s really got it going now,” Houghton said. “Reinoud [Haal] for all his close matches — which is about every one of them — has won a big majority of them, so I am happy with him. Tommy [McGeorge] is as steady as can be, Greg [Holm] is steady as can be and we haven’t lost a doubles point yet. So yeah … “We really feel like we are on a high right now.”

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