Men’s tennis returns with pair of wins

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

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Spring break is a time for beaches, tanning, tomfoolery, and apparently, perfect tennis.

Junior Austen Kauss recorded a 6-0, 6-0 victory over Pacific’s Chase Oliphant on March 20 in Palm Springs, Calif. The match was the first time this year a Hawkeye singles player has blanked his opponent.

“That’s hard to do in collegiate tennis,” Iowa head coach Steve Houghton said. “I thought he was better than the guy he played, but there’s usually a lapse somewhere. Austen played close to flawlessly.”

Kauss’ win proved vital to the Hawkeyes, who beat the reigning Big West champions, 4-3. The win was No. 53 Iowa’s second on its annual spring trip, giving it an 8-3 record going into Big Ten play this weekend.

“[The trip] was good preparation for us,” Houghton said. “We played three close matches that went down to the wire, and playing three good teams in four days can’t do anything but help us.”

The first meet of the voyage turned out to be the most difficult. The Hawkeyes fell to No. 52 Nevada-Las Vegas, 5-2, on March 17.

Four singles matches were decided in the third set, with Iowa victories coming from sophomores Marc Bruche and Tom Mroziewicz. Bruche defeated No. 112 Medhi Bouras (5-7, 6-3, 6-1) in the No. 1 slot, and Mroziewicz earned a point at No. 6 by beating Bernard Schoeman (7-6, 3-6, 6-3).

The Rebels handed the Iowa doubles team of Tommy McGeorge and Will Vasos their first loss in eight matches. The team lost to Bouras and Luca Barlocchi, 9-7, in the No. 1 position.

“UNLV is very good,” Houghton said. “I thought we had a chance to win, but we got better as the week went on.”

Iowa regained its winning form on March 20, defeating Wichita State, 5-2, in Palm Springs.

Although Vasos and McGeorge fell again, losing, 8-2, to Sven Kasper and Valentin Mihai, the Hawkeyes surged back in singles to win five of six matches.

Nikita Zotov clinched the meet by besting Vlad Marinescu at No. 2 (7-5, 6-3). While Zotov suffered from cramps in his third-set tiebreaker loss at UNLV, the junior returned against the Shockers to win his fourth match of the season.

“Zotov has had his ups and downs this year, but I feel he really took a step forward,” Houghton said.

The Hawkeyes defeated Pacific to complete their trip. Houghton called Kauss’ singles victory “close to flawless,” but he also acknowledged that the win was the only time Iowa earned the doubles point on its western voyage. The 29-year coach said doubles is still a “continuing work,” especially with conference play looming.

“Our No. 3 team [senior Reinoud Haal and freshman Garret Dunn] went 3-0 on the trip, but we’re still trying to find our way [in doubles],” Houghton said. “We still have some loose ends. I think we’re on the edge of being a good Big Ten team or struggling. We just have to compete like crazy and hope to improve.”

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