Iowa men’s tennis anxious to play after successful spring trip

BY BEN ROSS | MARCH 25, 2011 7:20 AM

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This weekend marks the kickoff of the Big Ten tennis season for the Hawkeyes — they will compete against Ohio State (16-2) and Penn State (10-8) at home. No. 66 Iowa will face the No. 5 Buckeyes today and Penn State on March 27 at the Hawkeye Tennis & Recreation Complex.

Ohio State comes off of a 6-1 win over Pepperdine in Malibu, Calif., earlier in the week, and the Hawkeyes will try to continue the success they had on the spring trip to Florida last week. There, they went 2-1 while trying to acclimate from playing indoors to outdoors.

Scouting the competition, it appears Iowa will have all it can handle facing Ohio State. The Buckeyes have the No. 5 and 19 singles players in the nation in Blaz Rola and Chase Buchanan. The squad is strong at doubles as well, with the pairing of Matt Allare and Peter Kobelt owning the No. 14 ranking in the nation. Even though the Hawkeyes will play such a highly ranked opponent, sophomore Garret Dunn believes the Hawkeyes remain unfazed.

“They’re just a bunch of college kids like us,” he said. “Rankings don’t mean anything. The match against Illinois a couple weeks ago proved we’re as good as any team in the nation. Rankings don’t mean anything once you get on the court, and I think all the guys think that.”

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This week, the squad would normally start practicing outdoors in order to get ready for the remainder of the season. But because of the recent drop in temperature, the Hawkeyes will continue sharpening their skills indoors until the weather warms up. One may not think the atmosphere in which tennis is played affects the game, but the differences can be as significant as playing football on grass as opposed to turf, or perhaps even more substantial than that.

Among the players, competing outdoors or indoors remains a matter of preference.

“I prefer indoors; I have a flat game,” junior Will Vasos said. “I can hit more winners indoors, whereas outside it’s more of grinding and loopy balls. If you have a big serve, it’s a bigger weapon indoors. [The play] is more aggressive indoors, and outside you’re going to have to grind and have 30-ball rallies. It’s harder to get winners outdoors.”

Assistant tennis coach Steve Nash doesn’t believe his squad has any type of advantage or disadvantage playing outside or inside, and he said the team can excel regardless of the climate it plays in.

“Indoor tennis is much faster,” he said. “Typically, teams that serve bigger do well. You also don’t have the heat or wind to deal with, so teams that can grind longer do well outdoors. We have tried to recruit a certain number of guys who are very good outdoors, a few who are very good indoors, and a few who do both well.”

The Hawkeyes will have to be nearly perfect against a Buckeye squad that has no glaring weaknesses and has only posted two losses on the season, but the assistant coach is confident.

“Whenever you play a good team, you got to serve well and get free points,” Nash said. “If you have to grind out every single point, that’s tough. Serving is probably the biggest key for [Ohio State], and that would be very similar to every Big Ten match we play. We have to get enough free points so we do not have to scramble for every single point, and if we do that, our guys are going to beat anyone.”

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