No love for Hawkeye tennis in Arkansas

BY BEN ROSS | FEBRUARY 15, 2011 7:20 AM

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The Iowa men’s tennis team dropped its second- and third-straight matches of the 2011 season this past weekend, perishing at the rackets of No. 71 Arkansas and No. 47 Santa Clara in Fayetteville, Ark.

While some people may think that such long road trips and two matches within 24 hours may be a recipe for disaster for visiting teams, the players and coaches seem to think otherwise.

“We’re used to playing Friday and Saturday,” senior Austen Kauss said. “I don’t think we were tired from Friday [Feb. 11 vs. Arkansas] on Saturday [Feb. 12 vs. Santa Clara].”

Head coach Steve Houghton noted the disadvantage but said problems with traveling and the obnoxious crowd had more to do with his team’s performance than the consecutive matches and lack of rest. Garret Dunn agreed.

“I don’t think it’s a recipe for disaster,” the 6-8 sophomore said. “It’s definitely an added obstacle, Arkansas had a lot of fans, but Santa Clara was away as well, which leveled the playing field. We got better over the weekend, and we have a whole week of practice ahead of us to help us learn from our mistakes.”

Though the coaches and players say the unfavorable match times and long distance traveled weren’t factors in the losses, their past record on such road trips says otherwise.

In 2010, the Hawkeyes lost to Sacramento State on March 6 and Denver the following day, both matches being played in the Mile High City. In 2009, the Hawkeyes had a similar fate when they had to compete against Wisconsin in Madison and traveled to Evanston the following day to drop to 0-2 on the weekend against Northwestern.

The Hawkeyes (1-3) fell to Arkansas, 6-1, on Feb. 11, dropping all of their singles matches and two of the three doubles matches. The Iowa squad fared much better the following day, splitting the singles matches but losing the majority of the decisive doubles matches to fall, 4-3, to the Broncos.

Still, Houghton isn’t worried about the disappointing weekend.

“I came back feeling good about the team,” Houghton said. “I’m disappointed with how we competed against Arkansas, but we definitely took a big step toward our goal of succeeding in the Big Ten.”

The coach said he feels that the Southeastern Conference is the most competitive tennis conference in the country, which is something he hopes his team can benefit from after seeing the Razorbacks in action.

“The crowd isn’t usually a factor in college tennis,” Houghton said. “But Arkansas’ fans made a difference with a crowd of 200 to 300 rowdy supporters.”

Fortunately for the Hawkeyes, they have the luxury of playing their next four contests at home.

The squad must have a short memory this week and not dwell on the past three matches as it prepares for the upcoming home stand.

“The [losses] are already behind us,” Dunn said. “We have four home matches coming up, and that should give us time to get back into the swing of things.”

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