Hawkeye men's tennis stays sharp during break


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The Iowa tennis team settled in to a rhythm of competition every weekend with four events over the span of three weeks.

But now with a prolonged break until the next tournament, the challenge for head coach Steve Houghton and the Hawkeyes is to stay sharp before the final three events of the fall season.

While seniors Will Vasos and Marc Bruche are competing in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association All-American tournament, the rest of the Hawkeyes are preparing for the stretch run of the fall season. The team has nearly a month between its most recent action and its next event.

The Hawkeye team last played on Sept. 23-25; Iowa's next tournaments are the Tennis Association Regionals Oct. 20-22 in Tulsa, Okla., and the Northwestern Invitational in Evanston, Ill., on Oct. 21-23.

The team's lone fall home event, the Big Ten Singles/Doubles Tournament, ends the fall season on Oct. 28-31 at the Hawkeye Tennis & Recreation Center.

Houghton, comparing the break to a bye week in football, said the hiatus from competition comes at a opportune time for the Hawkeyes. The break gives the team a chance to refocus and allows the players to work on the fundamentals of the game, he said.

"It serves a good purpose because, coaching-wise, all we've been really able to do is get guys prepared for tournaments," he said. "We really haven't had the time to work individually with some things that probably need to be broken down a little bit."

The Hawkeyes' first three events yielded numerous singles-flight championships, which makes staying sharp during a four-week break all the more important.

No player entered the break with more momentum than senior Chris Speer, who recorded an 8-1 singles record and won three titles — two singles and one doubles, with partner Joey White — in the two tournaments in which he played.

Speer said he will be able to keep his momentum going by treating practices with the same intensity as matches.

"Between practice and weightlifting, you just have to give 110 percent each day," Speer said. "There's a lot of tennis to be played, and we'll use three weeks of hard training to keep at it."

Freshman Alejandro Rios echoed Speer's belief, saying the team will work on the nuances of the game in extra practice.

"We're going to work really hard," he said. "We're doing some 7 a.m. practices, and we're working on placement on the court. We're also watching videos and working to be ready."

Houghton said the break helps rest the players who have competed frequently, such as Speer.

"The guys who have played a lot of tennis up until now — while we're still going to work hard in terms of conditioning — they get a chance to rest their bodies on the weekends a couple times," said Houghton, who is in his 31st season at the helm of the Hawkeyes.

"It works out really well for us."

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