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Men’s tennis sweeps singles play, defeats Northwestern

BY SETH ROBERTS | APRIL 19, 2010 7:30 AM

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One thing can be said about the Iowa men’s tennis team: The Hawkeyes don’t quit.

Although No. 53 Northwestern (9-12, 1-7) swept the No. 72-ranked Hawkeyes (11-8, 3-5) in doubles play, Iowa returned the favor in singles and iced a 6-1 victory on Sunday. The win snapped a three-meet losing streak and clinched the Hawkeyes’ third-consecutive winning season.

“I give a lot of credit to our singles players,” Iowa head coach Steve Houghton said. “We played well in key points, and we refused to miss. We refused to give in.”

Senior Tommy McGeorge played the Hawkeyes’ most tenacious tennis, defeating senior Alex Sanborn (3-6, 7-6, 6-0) at No. 5. McGeorge was down 0-4 to begin the second set — and faced a match point while down 5-4 — but went on an 8-1 run to force a third set and eventually win the match.

“I gave myself a chance,” McGeorge said. “Once I got back in the game, [Sanborn] wasn’t able to swing as freely as he had been. I was in a good position.”

Five of McGeorge’s teammates contributed singles wins as well, starting with sophomore Marc Bruche in the No. 1 slot. Bruche made quick work of Joshua Graves, defeating the No. 82-ranked sophomore (6-2, 6-2).

Sophomore Will Vasos won his first match in the No. 3 slot this season, defeating freshman Spencer Wolf (7-6, 6-4). Senior Reinoud Haal clinched the win for the Hawkeyes and snapped an individual three-match losing streak by beating junior Andrew McCarthy in the No. 4 position (6-3, 4-6, 7-5).

“It’s a nice feeling to win your match and know you’ve clinched the team match as well,” he said. “I played better tennis than I have been in the past couple weeks, and I made fewer errors. You can’t win without your teammates, but it’s a special feeling to clinch.”

Iowa completed its singles domination with nearly simultaneous victories from juniors Nikita Zotov and Austen Kauss.

Zotov reversed an eight-match losing streak by defeating freshman Sidarth Balaji (7-6, 3-6, 7-6) in the No. 2 slot. Kauss beat freshman Chris Jackman in a 7-6, 4-6, 10-5 slugfest to add to his team-best .688 winning percentage.

The singles sweep came after Iowa dropped all three matches in doubles play.

The No. 1 team of McGeorge and Vasos fell to Northwestern’s Graves and Wolf, 8-7. Bruche and Tom Mroziewicz lost to Sanborn and Tobias Reitz, 8-5, in No. 2, and No. 3 Zotov and Garret Dunn were defeated by McCarthy and Balaji, 8-4.

Houghton said the team will spend the next week retooling a doubles program that has not won a point since April 4. The Hawkeyes have won only one doubles match in that span, for a .083 winning percentage.

“Doubles has been discouraging,” the 29th-year coach said. “We’ll see some new faces and combinations before next week.”

The team still has reason to be optimistic about its last weekend before the Big Ten Tournament.

Haal said Iowa can “definitely” defeat both Purdue and Minnesota, especially if doubles pulls together.

“We just have to stay sharp and healthy,” the senior said. “If we stay focused and believe we can win both meets, I think we can definitely do it. That would put us at 5-5 in Big Ten play, and that’s a good position to be in before the tournament.”

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