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Men’s tennis to play Western Michigan

BY SETH ROBERTS | FEBRUARY 19, 2010 7:30 AM

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A two-week break is a long time to be away from anything.

The Iowa men’s tennis team (3-1) should know — it hasn’t competed since its 7-0 victory against Northern Illinois on Feb. 7.

However, the dry spell ends this weekend, when the Hawkeyes will travel to Western Michigan (7-1) for their fifth dual meet of the season on Feb. 21.

The No. 56 Hawkeyes enter the weekend having won three-straight meets, including a victory over then-ranked No. 66 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Feb. 1. Although his team hasn’t had a meet in two weeks, Iowa head coach Steve Houghton isn’t worried about rust.

“We’ve been doing a lot of physical conditioning that will pay off later on,” Houghton said.

“Everyone had some issues with his game that we tried to patch up, and we were able to be really focused.”

Western Michigan is undefeated at home, and it boasts the Mid-American Conference’s two most recent Players of the Week. Bronco juniors Michael Calderone and Casey Cullen will likely face Hawkeye sophomores Marc Bruche and Will Vasos in singles play.

“[Calderone] is tall and a strong server, so I have to be prepared to return well and use my passing shots,” Bruche said. “I like to rally on the baseline, and he likes to challenge players, so he might control the game, but I can set my points up.”

Vasos will face a different challenge against Cullen, who Houghton described as “scrappy and quick.”

“We know they’re going to be good, because they have been in the past,” said senior Tommy McGeorge, Vasos’ doubles teammate. “We have to give them the respect they deserve and just go out and play.”

The Hawkeyes have already shown they are capable of playing at a high level. The team has conceded only three points over the course of their winning streak, with the only loss coming against then-No. 6 Baylor in the ITA Kickoff Classic.

Iowa lost three players from last year’s squad, including former No. 1 singles player and fall 2008 Big Ten singles champion Christian Bierich. The job of filling Bierich’s slot has fallen to Bruche, a sophomore from Germany who transferred from Baylor last March.

Bruche had one of the Hawkeyes’ strongest individual performances in the meet against his old team, losing to senior Denes Lukacs (6-3, 6-4).

“I’m very pleased with Marc,” Houghton said. “His fall [season] was so-so, but he’s developed into a very capable No. 1.”

While Bruche anchors the singles play, the doubles side is held down by the duo of McGeorge and Vasos. The pair finished 18-3 in doubles play last spring, including 7-3 in the Big Ten.

However, the pair has gotten off to a slow 2-2 start thus far.

“Tennis is a game where even small lapses can hurt in the end,” McGeorge said. “I try to play as evenly as possible.”

The Hawkeyes will need to follow McGeorge’s advice, because Western Michigan is historically one of the better teams in the MAC.

“I think [the Broncos] get fired up to play teams from the Big Ten,” Houghton said. “It’ll be a tough challenge, but we’ll be ready to play our best.”


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