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Men’s tennis hold off Broncos

BY SETH ROBERTS | FEBRUARY 23, 2010 7:30 AM

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In collegiate tennis, even the first point of a meet can be pivotal.

The No. 55 Iowa men’s tennis team (4-1) learned this lesson when it turned a meet-opening victory in doubles play into a 4-3 win over the Western Michigan Broncos (7-3) on Sunday in Kalamazoo, Mich.

The one-point margin of victory is the slimmest the Hawkeyes have earned over the course of their current four-meet winning streak. The doubles point turned out to be the deciding factor after the Hawkeyes split the singles matches, 3-3.

“It was a good, hard-fought win against a good team on its home court,” Iowa head coach Steve Houghton said. “If we hadn’t won doubles, we wouldn’t have won [the meet].”

Iowa’s No. 1 doubles pairing of sophomore Marc Bruche and junior Nikita Zotov defeated Kazuya Komada and Zeyad Montasser, 8-5. The Hawkeyes’ No. 2 team, senior Tommy McGeorge and sophomore Will Vasos, overcame brothers Michael and Thomas Calderone, 8-4.

“I think we stepped up a little bit and were able to elevate the team right from the beginning,” Vasos said.

The Hawkeyes’ No. 3 team of freshman Garret Dunn and senior Reinoud Haal wasn’t as fortunate, dropping a match to the Boncos’ Casey Cullen and Pablo Olivarez, 8-1.

While the doubles team of Vasos and McGeorge earned a promotion from the No. 3 spot to No. 2 before the meet, Houghton said he doesn’t want anyone to read too much into the move.

“We made the switch because [the No. 2 and No. 3 teams are] about even,” Houghton said. “At this point in the season, we’re just trying to get a feel for what teams might be better at what positions. The fact that they’re that even gives us some good flexibility.”

Western Michigan gave the Hawkeyes a fight in singles play, winning matches in the No. 2, No. 5, and No. 6 slots. However, Iowa’s victories in the No. 1, No. 3, and No. 4 positions were enough to clinch the win in the team’s fifth dual meet of the season.

Bruche, Vasos, and Haal were all victorious in their singles matches. No. 4 Vasos finished first, defeating Cullen (6-3, 6-4), and No. 1 Bruche managed a victory over Michael Calderone (7-5, 4-6, 6-3).

No. 3 Haal bested Olivarez (6-2, 6-4) to clinch the team win.

“It’s a good feeling to know you’ve won,” Haal said. “I knew that we were down to our last few matches, and we were behind in two of them, so I was feeling some pressure. But it feels good to serve out and win the meet.”

Bruche’s and Vasos’ singles victories came against two of the Mid-American Conference’s most recent Players of the Week.

“I knew [Cullen] was a very good player, and our games matched up,” Vasos said. “I was able to penetrate his strokes with my big forehand, and luckily I came out on top.”

The flexibility and depth of contribution ultimately gave the Hawkeyes the advantage they needed to overcome a scrappy Western Michigan squad.

Houghton said he needed everyone on the team to step up in Iowa’s first official away meet of the season, and the team rose to the occasion.

“We fought really hard,” Vasos said. “It’s tough to go play a hot team at its place. It’s definitely an advantage for it. The win shows a lot; it shows how much we’ve grown.”


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