Women’s tennis spends weekend on the road

BY JON FRANK | APRIL 02, 2010 7:30 AM

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A recent near-loss is forcing Iowa women tennis players to think differently about their match against Penn State today.

After all, they almost overlooked Michigan State last week.

Against Penn State (4-10, 0-2) at the Sarni Tennis Center in State College, Pa., today, they say it won’t happen again.

Despite the Nittany Lions’ losing record and their being winless against Big Ten competition, the Iowa team (11-3, 1-2) said they won’t take their opponent lightly.

“We’re ranked higher than Penn State, but it’s going to be tough because the Big Ten is really good this year,” junior Jessica Young said. “They’ve been switching their lineup around, and some of the girls are new to the team. But we’re looking to get six to seven points against them.”

Currently the conference has seven teams nationally ranked — three of those in the top 25. Iowa sits at No. 26.

The Hawkeyes hosted the Spartans last week and struggled, pulling out a 4-3 victory despite Michigan State’s losing record. The match was decided by junior Lynne Poggensee-Wei’s tiebreaker victory.

“We were expected to win,” assistant coach Mira Radu said. “We struggled [against Michigan State] but fought through it and won. That should give us a boost of confidence with winning in close matches.”

Although the narrow win over the Spartans was not the way the Hawkeyes wanted to win, it may have taught them an important lesson: No victory is guaranteed.

Sophomore Sonja Molnar said the team can learn from its battle against Michigan State and use it as motivation to compete harder.

“I think a lot of it has to be we have to want to win every point, regardless of what we or our opponent is ranked,” she said. “[The match against Michigan State] has been good for us. It’s helped us train harder. The team that wins will be whoever wants it the most.”

Molnar sits at the No. 1 spot in the Hawkeyes’ lineup. She recently climbed from No. 77th to No. 55th in the most recent Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings, released on Tuesday. Molnar has been successful this spring, with a 21-7 overall record against top competition.

Another successful component of the squad has been the doubles team of senior Merel Beelen and Molnar. With a 6-1 record, the duo set a school record with a No. 15 Intercollegiate Tennis Association ranking, the highest in program history.

As Big Ten play continues, each match becomes more significant in determining final standings and ultimately whether Iowa will reach its goal of competing in the NCAA Tournament.

Following the match against Penn State today, the Hawkeyes will travel to Columbus, Ohio to compete against No. 25-ranked Ohio State on April 4.

“Ranking-wise, the Big Ten is more competitive than last year,” Radu said. “We’re going into every match prepared. It doesn’t matter whom we’re facing, we’re just playing to win. We want to come out of this weekend 2-0.”

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