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Women’s tennis sets team goal entering Big Ten play

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

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The Iowa women’s tennis team’s nonconference schedule has been a bit bumpier than expected, but as conference play emerges, the Hawkeyes look to prey.

Iowa (3-8) will begin its highly competitive Big Ten season today when it takes on No. 71 Ohio State at 5 p.m. in Columbus, Ohio.

The Hawkeyes started the season ranked No. 30 in the nation, but as the losses piled up, they found themselves left out of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s top 75. However, with Big Ten play starting, the women will try to play their best in the “heart of the season.”

More specifically, Iowa is aiming for at least a 6-4 record in Big Ten play, said senior Jessica Young.

“[Our goal is] not falling out the first day of the Big Ten tournament, which will probably put us into the NCAA Tournament,” Young said.

The women hope to equal the success of last year’s squad, which captured the No. 4 seed after going 6-4 in conference.

The 2010 spring team fell in the quarterfinals to top-seeded Michigan but, indeed, made the NCAAs.
Despite Iowa’s 3-8 record, Young and her teammates are optimistic.

“We have had some unlucky problems,” she said. “I think we are coming together as a team, and we are getting closer.”

Two of Iowa’s three wins have come on the road, including a 4-3 victory at Tulane on March 18. That win snapped a six-match losing streak.

The Buckeyes are 8-6 on the season, and they opened their Big Ten season Feb. 11 by knocking off Penn State.

With a 6-1 home record, the Buckeyes thrive at the Ohio State Varsity Tennis Center, their only loss coming to No. 38 South Florida. Ohio State’s six wins included three shutouts and three wins by scores of 6-1.

Iowa’s No. 40 doubles duo of junior Sonja Molnar and Young will battle Ohio State’s No. 69 pair of Gabby Steele and Kelsey Haviland.

“There is more determination to strive to beat the ranked players and the ranked teams,” freshman Christina Harazin said.

As the No. 1 singles player in all eleven of Iowa’s matches, Molnar, No. 114 nationally, will also aim for her fifth-consecutive solo win. She was named the Big Ten Player of the Week on Tuesday after she earned her first win against a ranked opponent this season last week against Louisiana State’s No. 56 Whitney Wolf.

Though the Buckeyes present a tough league-opener, head coach Katie Dougherty and Iowa have been looking forward to the grind of the conference schedule. After competing against Ohio State, the team will travel to University Park, Pa., to face Penn State on March 27.

“We’re ready for the Big Ten season to start,” Dougherty said. “It doesn’t get more exciting than opening up in Columbus on a Friday night.”


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