Sunday first match for Iowa men’s tennis season

BY BEN ROSS | JANUARY 28, 2011 7:10 AM

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Jan. 30 marks the beginning of the Iowa men’s tennis spring season against a team the Hawkeyes have had good luck against: Iowa is 2-0 all-time against Creighton.

Competition will begin at 1 p.m. in the Hawkeye Tennis & Recreation Complex.

Head coach Steve Houghton said he doesn’t really have a strategy for the Hawkeyes, but he stressed his players’ main priority should be taking care of each other. The 29-year coach would also like to remind his players of their capabilities.

“Believe in your shots, and stay in your comfort zone,” he said.

The veteran coach said the team needs to play what he called “high-percentage tennis,” which he defined as the players knowing their own limits and being able to recognize when they are on offense and defense. Fans attending the match can expect to see a confident team, he said.

“We have prided ourselves on fighting to the end and playing to our advantages,” he said.

No. 1 singles player Marc Bruche said the players are excited to get back on the court and show their improvement since the fall.

“I think we got stronger while other programs got weaker,” the junior said. “We will try to surprise people by showing them improvement in our Big Ten record.”

The Bluejays went 10-5 last season, 2-4 in conference play. They will have a chance to warm up before Iowa; they will play their first match on Saturday against Western Illinois.

Last season, the Hawkeyes posted an overall record of 13-10, 4-6 in the always-competitive Big Ten. They will need to fare better than they did last year against ranked opponents, posting an abysmal 3-10 record in that category. The Hawkeyes have 10 ranked teams on their schedule, which includes the likes of Big Ten powerhouses Ohio State (No. 4) and Illinois (16).

The Hawks said they know they have their work cut out in such a tough conference.

“Every match will be a challenge,” Bruche said.

Houghton sees his combination of young and old talent coming together this season, envisioning a lineup that includes two seniors, two juniors, one sophomore, and two or three freshmen. Houghton believes this is a team that is capable of being in the top five of the Big Ten, and the best way to climb that ladder would be with a win over Creighton.

He saw Creighton play in a tournament in the fall and was impressed with the Bluejays.

“They are a good, solid team; they looked good in the fall,” he said. “This should be a good tennis match, a great way to start the season.”

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