Tennis coach reinvigorating team

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

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Playing under a new head coach can be like transferring schools. Old philosophies and expectations are thrown out the window.

Such was the case for the Iowa women’s tennis team after the Hawkeyes parted ways with former coach Daryl Greenan and welcomed Katie Dougherty.

The introduction of Dougherty in November 2009 seems to have been a positive change for the players, who faced new challenges under a new system. Four months later, the Hawkeyes have noticed a stark difference in the way practice is run.

“Every practice has a purpose that can be strategically implemented in the game,” junior Alexis Dorr said. “There’s more focus on conditioning, and the practices are more goal-oriented. Coach is more professional. She tries to keep it as professional as possible and runs the team like a business.”

Before the season started, the team set concrete goals for itself: finish in the top 40, make the NCAA Tournament, and finish in the top four in the Big Ten.

Upon her introduction to the squad, Dougherty made it clear she had high expectations for the team and planned to do everything in her power to help the squad accomplish big things.

“When I took the job, I knew I had talented players,” she said. “I have high standards, and I’ve got to give it to my athletes, they’ve undergone big changes. I couldn’t ask for a better transition. They’ve done everything I have asked of them.”

Assistant coach Mira Radu, who was also with the team during Greenan’s tenure, recognized Dougherty’s drive from the first day.

“She was determined to take over and turn the team around,” she said. “She has lots of energy, and she’s channeling it the right way.”

Radu said she believes Dougherty’s unfaltering focus in practice has helped the players reach their potential.

“I’m comfortable with her because we share the same vision in practice,” Radu said. “I agree with the way she runs the practices and manages the matches.”

The team adopted Dougherty’s philosophy and have achieved record success. As of Monday, Iowa stands at No. 18 in the latest Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings — the highest rating in program history.

The changes in practice have also put the players in better physical condition — often the difference between winning and losing close matches. Radu said players fight through fatigue and earn points in situations in which a match rests upon outlasting opponents.

Dougherty’s work ethic and dedication to success can be traced back to her childhood and collegiate career. As a child, she played every sport and didn’t decide on tennis until her family moved to Hong Kong when Dougherty was in middle school.

Tennis was the only sport she could play on a regular basis overseas, and in turn, it became her main interest.

When she returned two years later to her hometown of Ellicott City, Md., Dougherty improved her skills and regularly commuted an hour and a half to the Four Star Tennis Academy in Merrifield, Va.

Following her four-year career at Wisconsin, she stuck with tennis and began her coaching career at American University. Eventually, she found her way back into the Big Ten, serving as an assistant coach at both Penn State and her alma mater.

“I knew that I could be successful at Iowa,” she said. “They have great academics and teams. The new facility makes it a place I knew I could win at.”

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