Senior Day for men’s tennis

BY AMIE KIEHN | APRIL 17, 2009 7:31 AM

Seniors Christian Bierich and Greg Holm and junior Walker Grimes will all see their last regular-season match for the Hawkeyes against Purdue on April 19 at 2 p.m.

“Those three guys are a really good class,” Iowa head coach Steve Houghton said. “It seems like they just got here and all of a sudden, they’re gone.”

Bierich has been a significant contributor to the Hawkeyes’ success since arriving in Iowa City in the fall of 2005. The Sedish senior’s dominant serve helped him claim the 2008 Big Ten singles championship and expand his 10-8 record this spring season.

Bierich is slated to play Purdue’s top player, junior Slavko Bijelica, in the Hawkeye Tennis & Recreation Complex. Bierich defeated Bijelica, who leads the Boilermakers with 12 wins this season, last year (7-5, 6-3) in Iowa’s 5-2 victory.

Iowa’s win over the Boilermakers was also bolstered by Holm, who decisively won his match over Purdue’s Paul Foley (6-4, 6-0). Houghton recognized that Holm’s absence from the program next year would significantly affect the Hawkeyes.

“He, more than the average guy, hasn’t just been tennis and academics,” Houghton said. “He’s done other things beyond that that have been good. He also has been such a good tennis player here too.”

Walker Grimes has also been an important contributor during his time at Iowa. The Chicago native exhibited impressive skill as part of the No. 1 and No. 2 doubles teams the last two years. Because of the addition of a strong freshman class and sophomore Nikita Zotov’s eligibility, Grimes has not be able to break into the lineup this season.

“He is someone who played a lot in his early years here, more doubles than singles,” Houghton said. “Really, if you want to say, he has been kind of victimized by the fact that we got a lot better in the last couple of years. It is not like he has got worse, we just have gotten better, and it’s tougher to break the lineup.”

Before the Hawkeyes play Purdue in Iowa City, the team will travel to play No. 33 Minnesota. Last season, the Gophers (16-6, 5-3) defeated the Iowa, 4-3. The Hawkeyes, however, are equipped with fresh talent in freshman Tom Mroziewicz and Will Vasos. Mroziewicz has a 3-0 record, and Vasos has been the comeback kid for Iowa, carrying a 17-13 singles record.

“At this point, we are just trying to hit a lot of balls and be really prepared,” Vasos said. “We’ve done all the conditioning work and we are all in really good shape, it is just hitting a lot of ball at this point.”

The Big Ten is known as a powerhouse in college tennis, with five teams ranked in the top 50. No one better than Houghton understands the conference’s strength.

“Virtually every team in the conference we are in the same ballpark with, with the exception of Ohio State,” said Houghton, who is in his 28th year as Iowa’s head coach. “Minnesota will be a tough match. It will be tough on their home courts. If we play indoor, their courts are a little smaller than the average courts, but having said that, virtually any team we’d be playing from this point on, with the exception of Ohio State, I expect it to be a close match.”

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