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Three Hawkeyes head to Illinois with winning streaks

BY NICK SZAFRANSKI | APRIL 08, 2011 7:20 AM

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The Iowa women’s tennis team brings three singles winning streaks into its match against Illinois in Champaign, Ill., today. Match time is set for 3 p.m. The Hawkeyes are 5-10 overall, 2-2 in Big Ten play, and the Fighting Illini are 6-9 (3-1 Big Ten).

Senior Jessica Young, in particular, enters with a lot of confidence — she has a five-match winning streak.

“She just works really hard on and off the court,” head coach Katie Dougherty said. “Things have just been clicking for her, she has been playing great tennis. She feels the ball really well and is competing really well. We bumped her up from [No. 3] to [No. 2], and she went 2-0 this weekend. I’m very impressed by her. It is tough playing up at the top of the lineup, and she has responded really well to that challenge.”

Young, who started the spring with a 3-7 record, credited her turnaround to an improved mental approach.

“It’s about having the confidence,” she said. “I have always struggled with having confidence on the court in tennis. Once you overcome your mental restraints, anything can happen. I struggled in believing in myself, and once I strung a few matches together, I got rolling. I focused on just me and the other person in the match.”

Young is not the only one streaking on the Hawkeyes squad. Senior Alexis Dorr has a three-match streak and has gone 3-1 in conference play, all at the team’s four spot. No. 101 junior Sonja Molnar has dominated lately, winning her last three matches in straight sets. Molnar has gone 11-4 in dual matches at Iowa’s No. 1 spot this season.

“This is the time of the year we always want to be playing our best tennis,” Dougherty said. “I think [Dorr and Molnar] are really striking the ball well and competing. They are doing a great job. Back to back days with tough matches, and it’s great they are able to do that.”

Iowa and Illinois have met once this season. The Fighting Illini took down the Hawkeyes, 5-2, in a meeting that came on Jan. 30 in Atlanta. At the time, Iowa was ranked No. 30 in the nation and Illinois was 25th.

Some things have changed for the Hawkeyes since then.

Freshman Jessica Cohen left the team for personal reasons in February, and Dougherty has shuffled her lineup slightly. Freshman Christina Harazin has slid up to the squad’s No. 5 spot, and Cassandra Escobar — who previously wasn’t in the lineup — is now at No. 6.

“Our doubles are different; we have gotten a little bit more seasoned,” Dougherty said. “We have gotten better since then, we have jelled. It will be a different match than the one in January.”

Following the match against the Illini, Iowa will head north to Evanston, Ill., to take on Northwestern at 11 a.m. on Saturday. The Wildcats are among the top teams in nation, ranked at No. 16 nationally. Northwestern is 11-4 overall, 4-0 in the Big Ten and 7-1 at home.

“We are more consistent,” Harazin said. “We had a tough beginning of the season, but now, we have that confidence. It is going to be different this time around.”


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