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Women's tennis optimistic about Wildcat Invitational

BY CONRAD SWANSON | SEPTEMBER 30, 2011 7:20 AM

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Two weekends after finding success in the Gopher Invitational in Minneapolis, the Iowa women's tennis team heads to Evanston, Ill., this weekend for Northwestern's Wildcat Invitational.

And while Sonja Molnar, arguably the team's best player, won't be available — she'll be participating in the ITA/Riviera Women's All-American Championships in California — the Hawkeyes will have plenty of talent in Illinois.

"The freshmen did a great job [in the Gopher Invitational]," assistant coach Jesse Medvene-Collins said. "It's never easy the first time when you're being thrown into the fire."

Morven McCulloch stood out in particular, reeling off three wins in her first tournament with the Hawkeyes. The Iowa coaching staff said it has high hopes for the Scotland native's future.

"Morven's looking better and better every day," head coach Katie Dougherty said.

The freshmen will be rejoined by Cassandra Escobar, who was forced to forfeit several matches when she suffered what Dougherty called a "minor foot injury" during the Gopher Invitational.

"She just got a little banged up," Medvene-Collins said. "She'll be fine and ready to go this weekend."

The coaches, however, aren't letting up on the training.

"We did a great job coming out on top in the close games," Dougherty said, but added she is wary of upcoming tournaments. The third-year coach said each team is going to play better in each successive tournament, and said she's expecting particularly strong competition from Northwestern, Oklahoma, Minnesota, and South Carolina this weekend.

Medvene-Collins agreed.

"We've got to keep working on everything," the second-year aide said. "We've got to keep improving week to week and day to day, because the competition is only going to go up."

Dougherty said she's been toying with different lineups in practice to help keep Iowa competitive.

Minnesota head coach Tyler Thompson said his Gophers have been working on many of the same things as Iowa has, and said he's looking forward to being able to scout some Big Ten competition for the second time this month.

"We've been working on a lot of doubles and fundamentals; we need to understand how we want to play the game this year," Thompson told The Daily Iowan on Thursday. "I know it's cliché to say I'm not too focused on specific opponents. It will be nice to see a lot of the Big Ten teams though. It will be a good look to see how they're progressing."


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