Men's tennis begins Big Ten tournament play in Madison

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

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Today marks the beginning of the Big Ten men's tennis tourney for the No. 66 Hawkeyes (8-12, 2-8), as they face Purdue (12-12, 2-7) in the first round of play. All matches will be played in Madison, Wis.

The match is slotted to begin at 2:30 p.m. against the Boilermakers, a team Iowa defeated earlier in the season and in the first round of the Big Ten tournament last year. Both wins ended in scores of 4-3.

Because the team has been so successful against Purdue in the past, junior No. 2 singles player Will Vasos believes competing against the familiar foe adds a boost of confidence.

"It definitely helps," he said. "We know we can hang with [Purdue], knowing we beat them gives us an edge — not to take anything away from them — they're still definitely a great team."

Iowa last played Purdue less than a month ago, on April 2 in West Lafayette, Ind. Even though the contest resulted in a win, Iowa had to rally as juniors Marc Bruche and Tom Mroziewicz took their games into three sets after losing their first. Sophomore Garret Dunn provided the third win needed to seal the victory; Iowa had won the doubles point at the start of play.

Dunn will be seeing his first extensive experience in Division-I tournament play this weekend, but isn't too nervous about rising up to the challenge.

"I'm feeling pretty good," he said. "We got a good draw, and I'm looking forward to it. [Beating Purdue earlier] helps a little bit, but it's the same as any other Big Ten match. I will treat it the same as any other match."

Because the Black and Gold have been successful in its latest meetings with Purdue, even head coach Steve Houghton feels confident about the matchup, but he would still like to caution his players not to be too cocky.

He said both teams have experienced changes since the last contest.

"It's hard to predict what will happen. Both teams have made a lot of progress since the last meeting," Houghton said. "The lineups have changed a lot for both teams, a lot of things are unpredictable. I can see this as a wide-open tossup."

In its last six Big Ten tournaments, Iowa has continued to the second round just twice and beat Purdue to do so both times. Last year, Iowa defeated the Boilermakers, then lost to Illinois. In 2008, Iowa lost to Ohio State in the second round after beating Purdue.

The winner of the Iowa-Purdue match will move on to play the second seed, No. 26 Indiana on Friday. The reigning Big Ten champs, No. 3 Ohio State, earned the first seed after going 10-0 in the conference. The top five teams in the Big Ten earn byes for the first round of play, with Minnesota, Illinois, and Michigan taking the day off in addition to Ohio State and Indiana. Michigan State will take on Northwestern, and Wisconsin will play Penn State today.

With a roster that Houghton said has yet to play to its fullest potential this season, he said his squad's mentality will be its largest obstacle in the tournament.

"It's mind over matter," the 30-year head coach said. "A lot of guys can be down or aching at this time of year; we need to approach the Big Ten Tournament as a whole new season. Start from scratch, everyone has a chance."

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