Women’s tennis looks to snap skid against Wolverines

BY JON FRANK | MARCH 26, 2010 7:30 AM

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For the first time in its short history, the Hawkeye Tennis & Recreation Complex will host a matchup between two top-25 teams.

With the program’s highest ranking ever, the No. 18 Iowa women’s tennis team (10-2) will make history on Saturday when it plays No. 6 Michigan (11-3) at 11 a.m.

The Wolverines’ ranking is also the highest in their history.

Both have traveled similar roads thus far. Much like the Hawkeyes, the Wolverines are riding a five-game winning streak, their most notable victory against then-No. 5 Baylor.

The upset boosted Michigan toward the top of the polls, reminiscent of the Hawkeyes’ victory over then-No. 24 DePaul.

The Hawkeyes also share a common loss with the Wolverines. Iowa opened the spring season with its hands full against then-No. 6 Notre Dame, eventually falling, 6-1.

Michigan also lost to the Fighting Irish, 4-3.

But since the loss to Notre Dame, the Hawkeyes have rebounded, and their confidence level is high.

“We have a chance to win at every spot, and we definitely believe we can,” junior Lynne Poggensee-Wei said.

Iowa may appear to be overmatched on paper, though.

Michigan has three players with double-digit win columns and a coach who is undefeated against the Hawkeyes. Ronni Bernstein boasts a 3-0 record against Iowa and 19-2 all-time record against Big Ten opponents.

The most compelling match should be sophomore Sonja Molnar and Michigan’s Denise Muresan, who is ranked No. 26. Molnar was recently named Big Ten Player of the Week for the second time following victories over No. 34 Lutfiana Budiharto of Wichita State and No. 95 Alexandra Kichoutkin of Tulsa.

The Wolverines’ impressive résumé in conference play and against ranked opponents does little to intimidate the Hawkeyes. The Iowa players said they feel they can use their underdog status as motivation.

“We’re the underdogs, so we’ll have a bigger edge,” junior Alexis Dorr said. “We think it’s added pressure for Michigan to win, and we can use that to our advantage.”

Another intangible edge the Hawkeyes may have over the Wolverines is conditioning.

“The entire team has complete faith that we have at least as much conditioning as any other team,” Dorr said.

And rightfully so. Team members said they spent an huge amount of time improving their condition in practice this week. Aside from running endurance drills, the recent trip to California also helped.
The squad competed in 80-90 degree weather and spent their practices in full sweatsuits.

The importance of conditioning increases as the season continues. The Hawkeyes believe endurance will set them apart from other teams as fatigue sets in and other squads begin to break down.

Head coach Katie Dougherty, who will face the Wolverines for the first time in her coaching career, understands the magnitude of the upcoming match.

“The stakes are higher, because it’s the hardest game since the Notre Dame match,” she said. “They’re a top-10 team, and they’re very good.”

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