Women’s tennis goes back for seconds


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When No. 6 Notre Dame nearly swept the Hawkeyes in Iowa’s first competition of the spring season on Jan. 23, one thing was clear: Iowa needed a swifter start against Eastern Michigan on Sunday.

Because the Hawkeyes struggled early in their matches, Iowa head coach Katie Dougherty talked with the players following the 6-1 loss to the Fighting Irish, emphasizing execution, opportunities, and “playing the big points.” She also wanted the squad to dominate in doubles play to gain an advantage before singles competition.

The Hawkeyes heard their new coach’s words and turned in a 6-1 victory of their own against Eastern Michigan at the Hawkeye Tennis & Recreation Complex.

“I was tough on them, and they responded well,” Dougherty said. “They stepped up and did a good job of closing things out today, and I’m happy with their effort.”

Senior cocaptain Merel Beelen seized both her singles sets against the Eagles’ Karina Ahuja (6-0, 6-4).

Beelen said that after the Hawks started slowly against Notre Dame, they needed to begin their matches quicker against Eastern Michigan. Iowa dropped all but one of their first sets to the Fighting Irish, with the lone victory coming from junior Alexis Dorr.

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“That’s one of the things we wanted improve, that we didn’t do … especially in doubles. We wanted to start a little bit sooner,” Beelen said.

The five-year veteran also cited the team members’ close relationship as a key to the quick turnaround over the weekend.

“We’re pretty close as a team, so I think that helps a lot after a loss,” she said.

After falling to one of the nation’s top players in Notre Dame’s No. 30 Kristy Frilling, sophomore Sonja Molnar (No. 65) took her frustration out on Eastern Michigan’s Julia Breuss the following day, starting strong and not easing up in a two-set victory (6-2, 6-1).

“That was what we had talked about — making sure we had taken advantage of every single opportunity from the beginning,” Molnar said. “And not letting them get ahead at the beginning and having to come back.”

The Hawkeyes began Sunday’s match with victories in each match except one. Senior Zuzana Chmelarova dropped both sets to the Eagles’ Miriam Westerink (6-2, 6-4).

The Hawkeyes will have nearly a three-week break before matching up against Kansas State on Feb. 13-14. During their hiatus from competition, the Hawkeyes will focus on sharpening their games.

“We knew what we needed to do better,” Dougherty said. “I mean, it looked like it was our first match of the season, and it was … We’re going to get better across the board. With our practices over the next few weeks, we’re going to see some gains here.”

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