Men’s tennis wins 1, loses 1

BY AMIE KIEHN | APRIL 06, 2009 7:30 AM

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Although the Iowa men’s tennis team fell, 5-2, to No. 12 Illinois on April 3, the Hawkeyes undoubtedly proved they can hang in the big leagues.

“The Illinois match was a very close match,” head coach Steve Houghton said. “It was a 5-2 match, but it was kind of like a 4-3 match. It really showed how much we closed the gap with [Illinois]. I mean, it has been a national powerhouse the last several years … “That match was a winnable match, Tommy [McGeorge] lost a tiebreaker in the third [set], Christian [Bierich] lost a very close match. If those guys win — we win the match.”

Bierich has had experience playing Illinois’ No. 1 player Marc Spicijaric during his time at Iowa, but the senior could not come away with a victory.

“I played pretty well in the first set,” Bierich said. “I think he wasn’t really prepared in the first set, he missed a lot of balls. Then in the second — those guys are good so they always going to come back stronger — and that is what he did. He started playing a little smarter in how he should play me, he threw in slices and stuff. It throws me off a little bit.”

After the loss against the Fighting Illini, Iowa’s confidence was bolstered in a 5-2 win on Sunday over Indiana when freshman Tom Mroziewicz defeated the Hoosiers’ Stephen Vogl (7-6, 6-4). Although Mroziewicz’s nerves were apparent in the first few games, the Toronto native quelled his anxiety to pull ahead in the No. 6 match.

“I started off a little nervous,” he said. “I think I was a little too excited coming out. I kind of settled down after both 3-4 games. The first set was a little more of a dogfight then anything else, and second set, I kind of settled into my game.”

While the Hawkeyes (11-5, 3-3) are equipped with 13 accomplished players, there are six spots in singles and doubles, and most players compete in both, often leaving little room for change.

However, Houghton and assistant coach Steve Nash arranged the singles lineup to include Mroziewicz.

“We have been struggling at No. 6,” Houghton said. “We felt like a couple of guys had some chances and in a lot of ways probably deserve more chances, but we tried someone with a fresh start to see what happens.”

As a successful junior tennis player in Canada, Mroziewicz demonstrated his talent against Indiana with his powerful serving and baseline rallying.

“I kind of did think that if he got put in, he would rise to the occasion pretty well,” Houghton said. “He had a lot of success in junior tennis in Canada and just proved it [Sunday].”

McGeorge and freshman Will Vasos also demonstrated what’s behind their 14-1 doubles record as the Hawkeyes’ No. 3 doubles pair. McGeorge and Vasos defeated the Hoosiers’ Will Kendall and Maxime Armeguad, 8-4.

“It is pretty amazing. It is easy to take those guys for granted, but I don’t,” Houghton said. “What they have done is just amazing. I can’t say it was some wise decision to put them together in the fall, it was almost a ‘Let’s see what those guys can do’ thing. They have been exceptional ever since.”
Iowa will continue Big Ten competition on the road against Wisconsin April 11 and Northwestern April 12.

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