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Women’s tennis set to open tournament against Indiana on Friday

BY JON FRANK | APRIL 29, 2010 7:30 AM

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Only one member of the Iowa women’s tennis team will face a familiar Indiana foe in singles play during this week’s Big Ten Tournament

The fifth-seeded Hoosiers (15-8, 5-5) have tinkered with their lineup since their last meeting with the Hawkeyes more than two weeks ago.

That isn’t bothering Iowa head coach Katie Dougherty.

She expects her No. 4-seeded Hawkeyes (16-5, 5-4) to continue to compete at a high level when they square off against Indiana for the second time this season in the quarterfinal round of the Big Ten Tournament at the Hawkeye Tennis & Recreation Complex Friday morning.

“In singles, we have five different matchups,” Dougherty said. “I think that’s a great neutralizer. There are no expectations. We’re just going to go out and put ourselves in a good position.”

The first-year Iowa head woman knows Iowa didn’t do that the last time the two teams met, on April 11, when the Hawkeyes found themselves in a tight competition against Indiana at home.

Although Iowa tallied a 4-3 victory, the result could have easily favored the Hoosiers.

The No. 15 duo of sophomore Sonja Molnar and senior Merel Beelen struggled. Tested by a 6-4 deficit, they responded to with four-straight points to earn a critical doubles win.

In singles play, Beelen’s last series with Indiana junior Katya Zapadalova, whom she will face again on Friday, ended in a Hawkeye loss after three sets.

Junior Jessica Young’s match with another Indiana junior — Myriam Sopel — also went to three sets, and were it not for Young’s match-saving triumph, the Hawkeyes would have lost.

Young won’t play Sopel this weekend. Her match is with Lindsey Stuckey, and Young vividly remembers her last bout against the Hoosier senior.

“I played her two years ago,” she said. “I was on the other side that time. I lost the match for the team instead of winning it. It’s going to be a hard match. I think we’re going to have a lot of fans out here supporting us, and that will make a difference.”

Dougherty said she believes that in order to win and advance to the semifinals, her team will have to get off to an early start and compete well in doubles — Iowa’s biggest asset in victories, as well as its biggest detriment in defeats.

The Hawkeyes are undefeated when they win the match-opening doubles point, but conversely have never managed to rally after starting from behind.

“We need to come out firing on all cylinders from the beginning, which we’ve gotten better at, but still have a tendency to have a slow start,” Dougherty said.

Iowa boasts one of the top doubles duos in the nation in Beelen and Molnar, who are currently ranked No. 15 by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association. They have only lost one match since their first time playing together on Feb. 27.

Molnar said she and her teammate would likely see a different matchup from the one on April 11, when they faced Leslie Hureau and Stuckey.

“We’re not going to know exactly what to look for,” Molnar said. “But at the same time, they might suit up better to us than the other team. They’re not going to know what to expect from Merel and I. Merel and I are just going to approach it as another match.”

But even with home-crowd support, a recent win against Indiana, and a higher seed, the Hawkeyes aren’t prematurely penciling their name into the Saturday semifinal slot.

“I think we’re really confident going in, but definitely not cocky,” Young said. “The Big Ten Tournament is huge, and we don’t want to go out first round at home … so I think we have more pressure on us.”


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