Men’s tennis falters against Wildcats

BY BEN ROSS | APRIL 11, 2011 7:20 AM

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The No. 57 Iowa men’s tennis team (8-8, 2-4) struggled early and often on April 8 at the Hawkeye Tennis & Recreation Complex against Northwestern (11-8, 2-3). Northwestern climbed to an early 1-0 lead after winning two of the three doubles sets, a point Iowa is not used to giving up.

The Wildcats won, 5-2.

Head coach Steve Houghton said that losing the doubles point may have started a snowball effect on his team’s spirits. The Hawkeyes were without the comfort of playing with an early lead.

“We’ve gotten in the habit of winning the doubles point,” Houghton said. “We didn’t do it today. We had big leads in two of the doubles matches, we were up 6-2, and 5-2, you shouldn’t be losing doubles matches like that. It’s only one point, and I don’t know if it affected our guys [in singles play] or not, but it’s obviously not good competing if you got big leads and kind of let those get away.”

It’s easy to point a finger at the poor doubles play as a reason for the loss, but the Hawkeyes looked equally bad in singles. They appeared sluggish on the courts with overall poor serving and often lazy-looking returns. Juniors Will Vasos and Tom Mroziewicz were the only two players to earn a victory in singles, with Vasos having to ward off an opponent who refused to quit in Sidarth Balaji (6-2, 4-6, 6-1).

“I had to battle for every point,” Vasos said. “Out there, I got a few breaks, but in the end, Northwestern just wanted it more than us.”

Things aren’t looking good for the Hawkeyes if they wish to meet their goal of finishing in the top four in the Big Ten. Last week, Houghton stressed that his squad would need to win at least three of its next five matches to reach that goal, and with upcoming contests against the likes of No. 23 Michigan, No. 20 Minnesota, and No. 60 Michigan State, Northwestern looked as if it was going to be a relative “gimme.”

Houghton expressed his concern about his team’s loss.

“Things are fragile enough for us,” he said. “The matches we’ve been winning are 4-3 matches, where you can’t really afford to have lapses like that whether it’s in the doubles point or singles matches. It was just one that really got away that may come back to haunt us when we’re done.”

Iowa is currently in eighth place in the Big Ten standings, with Ohio State and Indiana leading the way in a tie for first. The Hawkeyes still have many chances to catch up on the leaderboard; they still have competitions with three teams that are ranked in front of them left on the schedule.

Mroziewicz still has faith in his team.

“We need to get everyone committed,” the Toronto native said. “We only have two weeks left, we put all the work in, and it’s up to us to try hard and win. We need a perfect week of practice.”

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