Men’s tennis splits matches on first weekend of Big Ten play

BY BEN ROSS | MARCH 28, 2011 7:20 AM

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The Iowa men’s tennis team (6-5, 1-2) recorded its first win in the Big Ten on Sunday with a 4-3 win over Penn State (10-9, 0-2) at the Hawkeye Tennis & Recreation Complex. No. 66 Iowa also played No. 5 Ohio State in Iowa City on March 25 but fell to the Buckeyes, 5-2.

The Hawkeyes came out aggressively against Penn State, winning all three doubles matches and quickly securing the doubles point. Junior Will Vasos was the first Iowa player to record a singles win on the day with a victory in straight sets over Bryan Welnetz. The team’s No. 1 singles player, junior Marc Bruche, followed by recording a 6-4, 6-0 win over Eddie Bourchier.

Iowa then clinched the victory when sophomore Garret Dunn defeated C.J. Griffin on a controversial point that Penn State’s head coach Todd Doebler disputed was in-bounds. Doebler believed the official was hesitant to make a call and was rather upset after the crew took the side of Garret Dunn and Iowa.

Though he doesn’t think his players always played their best Sunday, Iowa head coach Steve Houghton was proud of his team. He said he sees progress being made.

“I think we played better against both Ohio State and Illinois [March 6],” Houghton said. “We lost those matches, so I didn’t think that we played great at all positions today, but we played well enough to win. Penn State is a good team despite its record.

“The doubles point was crucial; we don’t win the match without that. We have progressively gotten better in doubles, so that saved us.”

Vasos and Dunn were the only two players who stayed undefeated on the weekend, with Vasos recording perhaps a career-defining win against Ohio State’s Balazs Novak. Novak, a senior from Budapest, Hungary, was ranked No. 116 in the nation and had yet to suffer a loss in the Big Ten in his entire career, holding an unheard of 27-0 conference record.

Vasos wasn’t fully aware of what he accomplished, but has been humbled by the experience.

“I didn’t know he was [undefeated],” the Fort Collins, Colo., native said. “I knew he had won a lot, but I didn’t know to what extent. I knew he was a really good player, and I just tried to play my game against him the whole time and just look for my opportunities, and thankfully, I came out on top.
“I was proud of myself; I didn’t know he was that good … it was definitely a cool feeling.”

Iowa will go on a road trip to Indiana next weekend to face the No. 32 Hoosiers in Bloomington on Saturday before competing against No. 67 Purdue in West Lafayette the next day. With Illinois and Ohio State out of the way, Iowa has gotten over the toughest part of its schedule, and the players want to accomplish their goal of finishing among the top five in the Big Ten and making it to the NCAA Tournament.

Bruche said he feels good about his team’s chances of going far and looks forward to the challenge.

“Our team is really talented,” he said. “If we keep doing what we do right now, we can be top four in the Big Ten. Our team effort and spirit is really good right now, and the team is sticking together — that’s really important. Penn State is a really good team, but you could see we were fresher, and our team chemistry was way better than theirs … that was the difference today.”

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