Hawkeyes hope to kick off home stand with pair of victories

BY BEN ROSS | FEBRUARY 18, 2011 7:20 AM

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The Iowa men’s tennis team has a chance to improve its poor record (1-3) to break even this weekend, with home matches against Illinois State (4-1) today and Western Michigan (6-2) on Feb. 20. Today’s match will be played at 3:30 p.m. and the Feb. 20 at 10:30 a.m., both in the Hawkeye Tennis & Recreation Center.

The Hawkeyes have dropped their last three matches against DePaul, Arkansas, and Santa Clara, and they want to rebound and play up to their potential.

Iowa has been focusing on doubles play this week in practice after going 2-4 in doubles last week in Fayetteville, Ark.

“We definitely need to crank it up in doubles,” head coach Steve Houghton said. “The key to these matches can be in the doubles play and these guys really have to believe in their shots and strokes.”

The men’s club has had good luck with these opponents in the past, defeating the Redbirds in Iowa City in 2009 and traveling to Kalamazoo last year to record a 4-3 win over the Broncos. Sophomore Garret Dunn stressed that the team must believe in itself this weekend if it wishes to have any chance at success.

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“We have to have confidence on the court,” he said. “We have to go out there and believe we can win, we have what it takes to hang with the best teams, and we need to bring confidence and the belief that we can take control of the match.”

The 6-8 sophomore hopes to fare better in the upcoming competitions after posting a record of 0-4 in last weekend’s meets. Junior No. 1 singles player Marc Bruche was able to win both of his doubles contests and his singles match against Santa Clara last weekend, one of the few players to have a successful trip.

“We need more positive energy,” the Hölsbrunn, Germany, native said. “We’re practicing doubles all the time. The Santa Clara match was close, and we lost because of doubles, but we’re getting better every day.”

Houghton noted his team’s need to eliminate the gap between intensity in practice and intensity in games to come out ahead this weekend.

“We are playing two really solid teams. I think [we] will play well,” Houghton said. “They should get a boost from home court. It’s going to take a lot of effort to continue to be successful.”

These upcoming contests seem to be a good steppingstone for a young Hawkeye squad, a team that is eyeing a run in the Big Ten all the way up to the NCAA Tournament. Even though the last match against Santa Clara shows up as a loss in the record book, senior Austen Kauss believes it was a morale booster for his team.

“We are confident coming off our last match,” he said. “Playing within ourselves, we are able to compete with and even beat the best teams in the country.”

Kauss is one of just two seniors on the team, and he is known to be a leader for what is a relatively young squad. He said he isn’t the only one that players look to rally behind, though.

“I look for other guys to motivate me as well,” the Overland Park, Kan., native said. “I have seen the effects of not motivating guys, and we’re trying to get the mentality of coming out and winning.”

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