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Hawkeye tennis to face ranked Notre Dame and DePaul

BY PATRICK MASON | MARCH 02, 2012 6:30 AM

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The Iowa women's tennis team will face its toughest challenge of the season when it squares off against two ranked teams this weekend.

The Hawkeyes will travel to South Bend, Ind., to face No. 17 Notre Dame tonight before returning home to host No. 38 DePaul on March 4.

Iowa (4-2) head coach Katie Dougherty said the team worked hard in practice on manufacturing scoring opportunities, and she said she repeatedly reminded her players that they belong on the court with some of the best the country has to offer.

"It's nothing we haven't seen before," Dougherty said. "We need to get these teams on their heels right away, make them feel the pressure as soon as we can, and see if we can't get their backs against a wall. And when we do, we're [going] to play the big points."

She said she wants her players to start fast and be aggressive, and that starts with doubles — but the Black and Gold are still feeling out that part of the game. Dougherty said the Hawkeyes will most likely have three brand-new doubles teams to "shake it up." The goal, she said, is to find two or three combinations that consistently work well.

While Iowa is still toying with its doubles, Notre Dam (8-3) appears to have figured everything out.

The team's doubles pairing of seniors Kristy Frilling and Shannon Mathews was ranked No. 2 in the nation by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association; the duo is 7-3 on the season, and the three losses came against other nationally ranked teams.

Notre Dame is also a force in singles play — its top three slots are filled by ranked players. Mathews and Frilling are No. 52 and No. 73, respectively, and Britney Sanders rounds out the top group at No. 102.

The Hawkeyes will return from South Bend to face DePaul at the Hawkeye Tennis & Recreation Complex, where Iowa senior Sonja Molnar says Iowa enjoys a slight advantage.

"It's always more comfortable playing matches at home, at our facility and with our fans," said the No. 110-ranked singles player in the country.

Freshman Shelby Talcott said the team is "really fired up" about the opportunity to give its supporters a show against the country's No. 38 squad.

While DePaul will pose a challenge for the young Hawkeyes, Dougherty said, her players can take comfort in knowing they faced the Blue Demons in the fall; both teams participated in the Wildcat Invitational in early October. Iowa was 2-0 against DePaul in singles, but dropped the only doubles match between the schools.

DePaul's makeup is also similar to that of the Hawkeyes, Dougherty said.

"They have four freshmen in their lineup, up high like we do," she said. "They're a really well-coached team, smart and athletic — but we know what to expect."

Dougherty said the Hawkeyes may also have some intangibles on their side.

"We're ready to go out there and compete with a little bit less to lose than they have, being ranked that high," she said. "We all have something to lose because we go into every match expecting to win, but we know the pressure is a little bit more on them."


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