Men’s tennis to embark on spring trip

BY SETH ROBERTS | MARCH 12, 2010 7:30 AM

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Spring break is famous for students flocking to warmer climates, and the Iowa men’s tennis team is no exception.

The No. 54 Hawkeyes (6-3) will travel to Nevada and California over break to compete in three meets, beginning with No. 71 University of Nevada-Las Vegas (7-6) in Las Vegas on March 17.

Iowa will then embark for Palm Springs, Calif., to play unranked Wichita State (7-3) and Pacific (3-6) on March 19-20.

“It’ll be nice to have warm weather,” Iowa head coach Steve Houghton said. “It’ll be a lot of business, obviously.”

The annual spring trip is traditionally a chance for the Hawkeyes to become accustomed to the long rallies and unpredictable weather conditions that accompany playing outdoors. This season has been an anomaly because the team has already played four outdoor meets.

But Houghton said the trip will still be beneficial for Big Ten play.

“The goal is to come back playing better and, hopefully, get some wins,” Houghton said. “Everything is gearing toward the Big Ten right now.”

Although the 29-year head coach said he is well aware of the beginning of conference play, he said he does not expect his players to be anything but focused on the spring-trip meets. Instead, he said, his players know they “need to make progress” in order to gain momentum for one of the nation’s most competitive conferences.

Houghton has winning lifetime records against Wichita State and Pacific, and is 1-1 all-time against UNLV.

“UNLV is good every year, and we played some tough head-to-head matches against Wichita State in the fall,” Houghton said. “Pacific is probably the team I know the least about, but every West Coast team is going to draw a lot of good talent because of the weather.”

The Hawkeyes have plenty of talent themselves, and the trip marks the return of No. 1 singles player Marc Bruche. The sophomore retired from his match against Denver on Sunday after becoming ill, but he said he is back on track after finishing a round of medication.

“I came back to practice [on Thursday],” Bruche said. “I took it easy on weights but had a full hitting practice, and I think I’m back to normal.”

Bruche’s first opponent is UNLV sophomore Mehdi Bouras, the reigning Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year. Bouras is 10-3 in singles while posting a 6-4 doubles record with teammate Luca Barlocchi.

“I’ve played some very good players this year,” Bruche said. “I shouldn’t be scared of anybody.”

While the sophomore looks to regain his form, teammates Will Vasos and Tommy McGeorge will try to maintain theirs. Vasos and McGeorge, Iowa’s most consistent doubles partners, have won seven matches in a row while moving from the No. 3 to No. 1 doubles spot.

“We have to keep playing the way we’ve been playing,” McGeorge said. “Will and I have been aggressive, and I think that’s paid off. The teams we’ll be playing are all good, so we have to be ready to go from the start.”

The Hawkeyes said they are looking forward to enjoying themselves even as they compete over break. Houghton said the team may take in some matches at the professional tournament at Indian Wells, Calif., and the trip is the first in which the entire team will be together in the same hotel.

“I’m going to get to know the guys better, especially the ones who just transferred,” Bruche said. “We’re going to hang out and have fun together, and hopefully get some wins as well.”

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