Men's tennis kicks off season in Virginia

BY DI STAFF | JANUARY 27, 2012 7:20 AM

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The Iowa men's tennis team is fresh off a promising fall season capped by two particularly strong performances at the Big Ten indoor championships, and it will try to carry that momentum into the spring season.

In his 31 years of coaching at Iowa, Steve Houghton has seen it all. The dean of Big Ten men's tennis has more wins than any men's tennis coach in the program's history, and he is a member of the Iowa Tennis Hall of Fame. Rarely has he faced a schedule more challenging than this season's, though.

"This is by far the toughest schedule we've played in years," Houghton said on Thursday. "The Big Ten is very good; the nonconference schedule is very good, so I think it'll be a real challenge to our guys."

The Hawkeyes will be led through that tough schedule by freshman Matt Hagan and sophomore Jonas Dierckx, both of whom posted impressive fall seasons.

Hagan was recently named U.S. Tennis Association Missouri Valley Player of the Year, and the two teamed up to win the Flight B doubles title at the Big Ten indoor championships.

Even though underclassmen lead the way, the backbone of the team is a trio of seniors — Will Vasos, Tom Mroziewiscz, and Chris Speer.

"We've got some good senior leadership, guys who can step it up," Houghton said.

He believes the key to success for the rest of the team will come down to key contributions from unexpected places.

"You look every year for a surprise or two, guys who maybe haven't played a whole lot up to this point who can jump in and do well," he said.

Iowa has an opportunity to try to find those surprises at the Tribe Kickoff Tournament this weekend in Williamsburg, Va. The Hawkeyes will open the season on Saturday against host William & Mary at 7:30 a.m. and will play Dartmouth at 2 p.m. before taking on George Washington at 9 a.m. Jan. 29.

"No doubt for us we'll end up playing different guys," Houghton said. "It's a good opportunity, given the short time span to work in a lot of guys and just see where they are."

Houghton will not accompany the team to Virginia, though; he felt stomach pains en route to the tournament that forced him to be hospitalized in Champaign, Ill. He spoke to The Daily Iowan from the hospital and joked about his predicament. Check the Jan. 30 DI and dailyiowan.com for more updates.

— by Tom Clos

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