Men's tennis closes out season against Badgers, Gophers

BY BEN ROSS | APRIL 22, 2011 7:20 AM

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This weekend marks the end of the regular season before the Big Ten championships for the men's tennis team. No. 66 Iowa, (8-10, 2-6) will close out the season with home matches against No. 71 Wisconsin, (10-11, 4-4) at 3 p.m. today and No. 23 Minnesota (15-4, 6-2) at noon April 24. Both matches will be played at the Hawkeye Tennis & Recreation Complex.

Iowa faced both opponents last year in Iowa City, falling to both, 5-2.

These matches will be crucial in determining not only who Iowa will play next weekend in Madison, Wis., at the Big Ten championships but also to see if the squad will qualify for the NCAA Tournament.

Will Vasos doesn't need to be reminded about the importance of these matches.

"These matches are big in the sense of who we'll face in the first round," he said. "How we play will give us confidence into the postseason. These are huge matches."

In the rankings, Wisconsin has the No. 55 singles player in the nation in Marek Michalicka.

Minnesota boasts No. 100 singles player Tobias Wernet and the No. 88 doubles tandem of Sebastian Gallego and Phillip Arndt.

The April 24 match also marks Senior Day for two players, Austen Kauss and Nikita Zotov. While one might think stepping on the court for the last time as a Hawkeye may be an emotional experience, Kauss says the thought hasn't even crossed his mind.

"I haven't thought of the fact that it will be my last home match," the Overland Park, Kan., native said. "I need to focus on the match, focus on what I need to do to win and help the team. I will not focus on the fact that it's my final match at Iowa."

Iowa has had a tough time rebounding after losses this season, and the Hawkeyes are riding a four-match losing streak. Last weekend, Iowa traveled to Michigan to take on the Wolverines, but got flustered early and was never able to build a comeback.

Sophomore Garret Dunn said last weekend's road trip stings a little, but he also knows it's important to have a short memory.

"We had some tough losses last weekend," he said. "We will approach this as any other Big Ten match, though. We need to stay focused and finish the season out strong."

Kauss said he plans on saying some words to his team — hopefully inspiring — before he steps on the court one last time.

"It's going to have to be a group effort," he said. "These are two pretty good teams; everyone needs to do well in doubles and singles. There hasn't been a match this year where everybody has played well as a team. We can definitely win; we just need to work together."

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