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Women’s tennis won’t make losing a habit

BY JON FRANK | APRIL 20, 2010 7:30 AM

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When the Iowa women’s tennis team opened Big Ten play with a 6-1 loss to Minnesota in February, it looked as though it would be a year of frustration similar to last spring.

In 2009 the Hawkeyes went 2-8 in conference play — one of their worst stretches in recent seasons.
But rather than throw in the white towel, team members have learned to make adjustments. And since their loss to Minnesota, Iowa (15-5, 5-4) is 5-3 in conference play.

The Hawkeyes have also never lost two matches in a row this spring a byproduct of determination, Iowa sophomore Sonja Molnar said.

“We showed we wanted to win more,” she said. “We hate losing, and in any sport, it’s not OK to lose.”

No. 9 Northwestern swept Iowa on April 17 in Evanston, Ill. And as the team had done before, it showed determination and recovered on Sunday against Wisconsin with a 5-2 victory.

“I’m happy with the team’s unity, effort and hard work,” junior Jessica Young said. “Everyone’s doing what they’re supposed to and you can’t really ask for more.”

First-year coach Katie Dougherty reflected on the weekend as a whole.

“[The Wisconsin match] was another good win for the team,” she said. “Wisconsin’s a good team, they haven’t had a lot of success this season, but they were coming off a big win against Minnesota. Northwestern’s very good, but I wasn’t happy with the way we competed against them.”

Dougherty said she was happy with the way her team played against Wisconsin, however.

Iowa got off to a fast start, winning the doubles point. The No. 14 doubles team of sophomore Sonja Molnar and senior Merel Beelen extended their winning streak to seven and improved to 10-1 overall.

Young and senior Kelcie Klockenga also won their doubles match to snap a five-game losing streak.

Doubles play was followed with all six Iowa players winning the first set in singles play and four — Molnar, Young, Klockenga, and junior Alexis Dorr — winning their matches.

For the fourth time this season, the Hawkeyes answered a loss with a win in the following contest.

Iowa hosted then-No. 6 Michigan on March 27 but lost. Unshaken by the defeat, the team returned to the courts outside the Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Complex and defeated Michigan State, 4-3.

Like other close matches this season, Iowa tipped the scales with the last individual victory as junior Lynne Poggensee-Wei came from behind in three sets.

The Hawkeyes faced another challenge against Indiana on April 11 when the team lost its previous match to Illinois. But rather than fall to fifth in the Big Ten with another loss, Iowa edged Indiana 4-3 thanks to a win in the third set by Young.

Assistant coach Mira Radu gave her team credit for its ability to make adjustments and use losses to fuel future success.

“I think a loss like that is motivation to compete — maybe even a wake-up call,” she said. “The girls all seem to do a better job after losing. … The girls are tired physically and mentally, but that’s where every team is at this point in the season. They just need to find the energy and will power to show up for every match.”

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