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Women’s tennis set to face Illinois

BY JON FRANK | APRIL 09, 2010 7:30 AM

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Following last weekend’s series of plane rides and scrambling through airport terminals, the Iowa women tennis players (13-3, 3-2) expect a little more oomph in their play come Saturday.

“We took six different planes [last weekend]. It was tough,” junior Alexis Dorr said. “Playing at home is a big relief, because we can actually get some sleep.”

The Hawkeyes will host Illinois (9-7, 3-1) at the Hawkeye Tennis & Recreation Complex.

The Big Ten matchup against the Fighting Illini could also clear the congested mess at the top of the conference. The Hawkeyes are fourth in the Big Ten, and Illinois sits one game ahead.

No. 5 Northwestern (10-4, 5-1) is ahead of Illinois and Iowa at the No. 2 spot. Third-ranked Michigan (15-3, 5-0) sits atop the conference.

The Hawkeyes had an opportunity to gain in the Big Ten on March 27, when they hosted the Wolverines. But a 6-1 loss dropped Iowa in the rankings from No. 18 to No. 26.

Afterwards, though, Iowa rebounded with three-straight Big Ten victories that helped the squad moved up to No. 22 in the latest Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings.

The streak reveals a pattern the team has followed this season: a loss followed by five wins.

Following the Hawkeyes’ loss to No. 6 Notre Dame in the season-opener on Jan. 23, Iowa won five in a row before falling to Minnesota on Feb. 26. Again the loss yielded five marks in the win column.

Now, the Hawkeyes have an opportunity to extend their streak to four, but even though Iowa is ranked ahead of Illinois that doesn’t translate into an automatic victory, Dorr said.

“Rankings don’t mean everything,” she said. “Points don’t always tell you who the better team is … I got the impression from Coach [Katie Dougherty] that Illinois wants to finish in the top two [in the conference].”

The squad knows firsthand about upsets. The Hawkeyes shocked No. 44 Princeton with a 4-3 win on Feb. 27 and shortly after, edged No. 24 DePaul on March 7.

On Sunday, the squad ended its weekend road trip with a 6-1 victory over No. 25 Ohio State.

Senior Kelcie Klockenga said the match against Illinois will be tough. But she said the team has a psychological advantage thanks in part to its collective confidence.

“We just got off a big win against Ohio State, where we were ranked closely,” she said. “The win gave us lots of confidence and momentum. I think we play better against tough competition.”

Iowa assistant coach Mira Radu agreed the victory over Ohio State has positively influenced the team. But she said the match is history, and her concern is with the present.

“We only have five more matches to go, and we’re taking every one of them seriously,” she said. “They’re all important. [The Illinois match] looks more important because of the rankings, but we take it one game at a time.”



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