Iowa freshman solidify roster behind ace Molnar


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The Iowa women's tennis team's starting roster is a little unusual.

Senior Sonja Molnar is the team's No. 1 player and obvious leader; she's followed by four freshmen and a sophomore.

Molnar said at the beginning of the year that her personal goal was to "finish out strong," and she's on pace to do just that. Her singles record is 5-0, the best start of her collegte career. She has won four of her five matches in straight sets, and she is ranked No. 109 by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association.

"Sonja is clearly our best player right now, but Morven [McCulloch], Shelby [Talcott], and Tina [Harazin] have certainly done a great job," head coach Katie Dougherty said. "[The lineup] is competitive, and people are in the right spots. They give us the best chance to win every week."

Molnar is the only one of the three seniors on the team to see significant playing time; Ally Majercik has made a handful of spot starts in doubles, but Cassandra Escobar has yet to appear.

Dougherty said having two seniors battling to move into starting roles keeps every player on her toes. But every point is the same, she said, whether it comes from seniors at No. 1 or a freshman at No. 6. And this season, Iowa is no stranger to getting points from its underclassmen.

The Hawkeyes needed a win from either Harazin or McCulloch to seal a victory over Iowa State on Feb. 12. Molnar had already won her match in straight sets and in under 35 minutes, but the outcome of the meet fell on the shoulders of the young players. McCulloch pulled out the victory, and Iowa won.

Iowa has been getting similar production from its young doubles players. The No. 3 pairing of two freshmen, Katie Zordani and Ellen Silver, is 3-0 this season. Iowa has won 20 meets in a row when it sweeps the doubles point, and having a strong third pairing is a large part of how the team sets the tone.

The depth continued to show this past weekend, when Iowa traveled to face No. 32 Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. The team dropped its first two meets of the year, but Dougherty said she was still happy with the solid play she received throughout her lineup.

"We grew as a team a lot last weekend. The score doesn't say much about those matches, but we competed really well on Sunday and had a breakthrough with some of our players," Dougherty said. "Ellen Silver had a good day, [Molnar] had a good day, and [Talcott] was right there along with [Zordani]."

Zordani stepped up into the No. 5 position against the No. 32-ranked Sooners and defeated Nicole Long in straight sets. Harazin hung on for a third set but faltered at the end. Silver stepped up on Sunday against a tough Oklahoma State team and won in straight sets in the No. 6 slot.

Harazin said the team's overall success — the Hawkeyes are 3-2 on the year so far — is because of the consistent, and sometimes dominant play of the underclassmen.

"It's a good atmosphere," the sophomore said. "The freshmen are stepping up and understanding the idea of college tennis."

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