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Women’s tennis wants clean slate after slow start

BY NICK SZAFRANSKI | FEBRUARY 25, 2011 7:20 AM

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Katie Dougherty doesn’t want to talk about last year anymore.

“It’s done,” the second year women’s tennis head coach said. “We are a totally different team, no better, no worse. This is what we are working with. We are moving forward, not looking back.”

Through its first seven matches, the 2010 Iowa team went 6-1 in the spring. That is a big reason — after only losing three seniors to graduation — the Intercollegiate Tennis Association preseason rankings had this year’s team slotted at No. 30, the highest ranking in school history. However, after a 2-5 start to this season, the Hawkeyes have dropped thirty-eight spots to No. 68.

With four matches left before the Big Ten schedule begins, the team is changing its mindset and starting off with a “clean slate.”

“What we decided to do was that we are going to start at zero again,” junior Sonja Molnar said. “We are going to have a mini-season, which is going to be our next four matches. We are going to start over again, and forget about what has happened so far, and have a new fresh start.”

This weekend, the Hawkeyes will get to showcase their new and improved approach as they travel to Columbia, Mo., to take on Missouri. The Tigers come into the Feb. 27 match 4-1 on the season.

While the No. 32 doubles tandem of Molnar and senior Jessica Young has gone 5-1 so far, capturing the doubles point has been an issue for the Hawkeyes. The team has only claimed the doubles point once in seven matches.

“Our goal [going to Missouri] is to get at least two of the doubles points and having that padding going into singles,” Dougherty said. “That’s where we have gotten into a little bit of trouble, is getting behind with the double point and not being able to erase it immediately and then come up with two more single points.”

A lack of consistency has been a curse for the first third of the season for Iowa. After a team meeting on Tuesday, the Hawks identified the Missouri match as the catalyst to help get their consistency going.

No. 26 Nebraska is the only ranked opponent left on the Hawkeyes’ nonconference schedule. With three of its next four opponents unranked, the Hawkeyes have a chance to create some consistency before they take on the Big Ten.

As the preseason’s 30th-ranked team in the country, players said they constantly had a “target on their back.”

“Everyone is bringing her biggest lineup against us,” freshman Christina Harazin said. “We are working on being fearless and putting the target on their back.”

Now, after dropping in the rankings, the Hawkeyes get to play with less pressure. The only thing that the team cares about is taking each match one at a time.

“Getting a win against Mizzou is all we care about,” Dougherty said. “Coming out of this weekend with a win [is our goal]. They are a tough team and we know we have to make a bunch of quality balls and finish points to out work them.”


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