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Hawkeye tennis to compete in two tournaments

BY RYAN MURPHY | SEPTEMBER 23, 2011 7:20 AM

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The Iowa men's tennis team will compete in two different events this weekend, which means head coach Steve Houghton's top two players will get a national test while the longtime head coach gets a look at other players who haven't competed as often.

The Hawkeyes will send representatives to both the Baylor-HEB Invitational in Waco, Texas, and the Drake Fall Invitational in Des Moines. Both events begin today and run through Sept. 25.

Seniors Marc Bruche and Will Vasos will wear the Black and Gold in Waco in a tournament featuring some of the best college tennis players in the country. Houghton said it's a crucial opportunity for Bruche and Vasos to face some of America's top talent.

"It's a great opportunity for them to play in a national-type tournament, and there will be some nationally ranked kids down there," the coach said.

Seven athletes — including Bruche at No. 101 — will enter Waco ranked among the Intercollegiate Tennis Associations' preseason top 125 singles players, led by No. 17 Costin Paval of Oklahoma.

Additionally, two doubles teams in the tournament are nationally ranked — including the No. 41 pairing of Bruche and Vasos.

Vasos said he and Bruche look forward to the opportunity to test themselves against top competition, while building for the all-important spring season.

"It's really high-level tennis, and there are going to be a lot of good players," the Fort Collins, Colo., native said. "Every match we see will be a tough one."

Houghton said that Bruche's and Vasos' performances in Waco will be a building block toward the NCAA championships in the spring season.

"This tournament gives them a chance to carve a path to NCAAs, because that all starts in September," the 31st-year head coach said. "They're both capable, in singles and doubles, of securing some good wins — but nothing will come easy."

While two of Iowa's seniors are playing in Texas, other members of the team will compete in Des Moines.

The Hawkeyes will send four players to Drake: senior Chris Speer, juniors Garret Dunn and Connor Gilmore, and freshman Matt Hagan.

Hagan, who won five matches in his first tournament as a Hawkeye last weekend, said he is focused on building momentum from the Purdue Invitational.

"My serve and my forehand were really strong last weekend, so I'm just trying to keep rolling and keep playing well," he said.

Houghton said getting more experience for his players that haven't competed in many events as Hawkeyes is his top priority in Des Moines.

"We're still looking at guys that we just haven't seen play very much, like Hagan and Speer," Houghton said. "It also gives guys like Speer [who won five-straight matches last weekend] a chance to prove that last week wasn't a fluke."


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