Women’s tennis rolls through Columbus

BY JON FRANK | APRIL 06, 2010 7:30 AM

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With a season full of program-high collegiate rankings, the doubles pairing of sophomore Sonja Molnar and senior Merel Beelen are just another example of the Iowa women’s tennis team (13-3, 3-2) hitting its stride.

The duo improved its win streak to three and helped the Hawkeyes overcome No. 25 Ohio State (15-5, 2-2), 6-1, on the road.

“We knew from the beginning that it was going to be a tough one,” assistant coach Mira Radu said. “We emphasized that Ohio State is a team that competes well, and we would have to, too, in order to win.”

Not only did Iowa leave Columbus with a victory, it also demonstrated its ability to dominate a top-25 team. The Hawkeyes showed the conference that they are no longer bottom feeders but top dogs that can challenge even the best programs.

“I was really excited that we won the match,” junior Jessica Young said. “Ohio State is one of our biggest rivalries in tennis. They beat us last year, 6-1, so it was sort of a revenge match.”

Aside from avenging the tough loss to the Buckeyes, Iowa’s standout doubles team of Molnar and Beelen continued to shine, winning, 8-4, against Ohio State.

Molnar and Beelen, ranked No. 15 in the country, improved their doubles record to 8-1 this season.

But despite the consistent success and impressive wins over other renowned teams, Beelen was shocked when she saw her and Molnar’s names on the Intercollegiate Tennis Association website.

“It’s awesome,” Beelen said “I didn’t expect us to jump that high into the rankings. It gives us confidence in other matches.”

Time and time again, the two have jump-started the team and earned the crucial doubles point. Both Beelen and Radu attribute much of the success to the other doubles teams and impressive singles play.

“It’s a great honor for them to be ranked that high,” Radu said. “The other two teams are also doing a great job, though. Without the help from the other two teams, they wouldn’t be ranked that high. We stress the importance of consistency from all the doubles teams and look at the big picture.”

The Hawkeyes have consistently won in doubles throughout the spring. Juniors Lynne Poggensee-Wei and Alexis Dorr also won their match against Ohio State, 8-4, to secure the first point of the match.

Beelen said she has learned some important techniques from Molnar, which have improved her play in both singles and doubles.

“When you play with better players, it makes you better,” Beelen said. “She plays a faster game that most people aren’t used to. She implements more tactics, and it has rubbed off on me.”

Young and other teammates are impressed by Beelen and Molnar’s outstanding season. She said the team’s dominant play is an inspiration, as well as a reflection, of the team’s mentality.

“I’m really proud of them both,” Young said. “Merel’s had some problems with injuries in the past but is 100 percent now. They both work really hard and deserve it.”

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