Hawkeye women's tennis sweeps Illinois State in season-opener


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The Iowa women's tennis team dominated Illinois State, 7-0, in the first meet of the spring season on Feb. 4 in the Hawkeye Tennis & Recreation Center.

The Hawkeyes (1-0) appeared more composed and in better condition than the Redbirds (1-2), and it showed throughout the afternoon as Iowa kept up its intensity on its way to a commanding victory.

"As a whole, we competed well, and we worked out some nerves early in singles and doubles," head coach Katie Dougherty said. "Illinois State is a scrappy team and was fighting hard, and we did a good job of closing out first sets and taking control in the second."

The Hawkeyes put the Redbirds in an early hole by sweeping the doubles competition and claiming the first point of the match. Senior Sonja Molnar and freshman Shelby Talcott, paired at the top spot, defeated the Redbirds' Aniko Kiss and Phyllis Tigges, 8-2. Iowa's No. 2 and No. 3 pairs won their matches handily, both by 8-3 scores.

"It was a lot of fun," Talcott said. "[Molnar and I] complement each other well in games."

Molnar said playing with Talcott is beneficial because she's left-handed, and "no one likes a lefty."

Iowa didn't let up after doubles, winning each of the six singles matches in straight sets. Molnar and Talcott played in the No. 1 and No. 2 positions respectively, and each won (6-1, 6-1); Molnar beat Kiss, and Talcott defeated Tigges.

The Hawkeyes showed poise and endurance over the course of the meet, while Illinois State was visibly tired at times. The Hawkeyes continued to make the Redbirds work by playing solid defense and outrunning their opponents — which Dougherty said is a testament to the team's training program.

"Something we have been stressing is our fitness and recovery," Dougherty said. "We've been working with Jamie Wynn, our strength coach, and she has done a great job with the team. We've been doing a lot of tennis-specific training, which has helped a ton with injury prevention and getting them to where they need to be on the court."

Iowa's four freshmen have seemed to respond well to the conditioning. All of them competed in the doubles matches and won their singles matchups.

No. 3 Morven McCulloch and No. 6 Katie Zordani both won (6-4, 6-1). But they battled hard for each point in the beginning of the matches, trading sets and looking at times like they might not be able to hold on. Their endurance showed as both won the first set and then took advantage of their tired opponents in the second by forcing the Redbird women to chase shots all over the court.

"All the freshmen did a great job … they stepped up and did a very good job for us," Dougherty said. "They're all experienced from junior [tennis] — both international and national experience — so this is nothing new. But playing on your home courts and in a uniform for the first time, they did a great job."

The win was a good start to the Hawkeyes' season, and they now have a week to prepare for two meets at home next weekend. Dougherty said they have a few things to work on to better their games.

"We talked all week about starting points and having better returns," the head coach said. "That will still be on the agenda for next week, because it can still get better."

Follow DI women's tennis reporter Patrick Mason on Twitter.

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