Iowa women's tennis disappoints in loss to Ohio State


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The Iowa women's tennis team couldn't maintain its momentum from an upset win over No. 46 Penn State on March 30 and fell to Ohio State on Sunday, 4-3, outdoors at the Hawkeye Tennis & Recreation Complex.

Iowa (7-9, 1-4) earned its first Big Ten victory of the year against the Nittany Lions, 4-3, but head coach Katie Dougherty said her team's performance on Sunday was "disappointing."

"Penn State is a good ranked team," Dougherty said. "It felt great coming off that, but we couldn't back it up today — it's disappointing. We had a lot of opportunities in doubles that we didn't convert on, and it hurt us going into singles."

Sonja Molnar and Morven McCulloch were teamed at the top spot in doubles and won the only doubles match for the Hawkeyes, 8-6. The freshman duo of Ellen Silver and Katie Zordani squandered an early 4-1 lead and fell, 8-6, at the No. 2 spot. Ally Majercik and Shelby Talcott fell, 8-3, at No. 3.

The Hawkeyes benefited in singles from strong outings by No. 115 Molnar, who defeated the Buckeyes' Kara Cecil in straight sets (6-2, 6-2). Molnar also defeated Penn State's No. 61 Petra Januskova on March 30 as she improved to 12-4 overall.

"I don't face too many ranked opponents, and when I do, I try to take advantage," she said.

Zordani also had a solid weekend — she came away with two wins, but the Black and Gold didn't see enough strong performances on Sunday to win — or impress the coaching staff.

Iowa only had two first-set wins, something Dougherty said can't happen.

"We couldn't get four or five first-set wins, and we dug ourselves a hole that we couldn't get out of," she said. "Hats off to Ohio State; they out-competed us at certain spots. When that happens, we're not going to win Big Ten matches."

Dougherty's passion spilled out during the loss. She looked disappointed throughout the meet when her team fell behind early and walked to the far fence and stood alone for a few minutes after the Buckeyes captured the decisive fourth point.

Dougherty spoke in the locker room for 15 minutes — her post-meet speeches usually last about five — when Silver's singles match finished after more than two hours. The players were quiet when they exited the locker room.

"Our peaks and valleys are too low," Dougherty said. "… If we can even out and be just good enough on days where we need to be just good enough, that will help us in the long run.

"We're knocking on the door of being a good team. We just need to go out and prove it and be able to go 2-0 on a weekend like this."

The Hawkeyes have had issues with starting well before, including a victory over then-No. 38 DePaul on March 4. Iowa lost the doubles point but stormed back to win, 5-2.

Iowa mustered a small comeback on Sunday as Silver — who competed for almost four hours straight, including doubles — took Tiffany Dittmer to a third set and won (3-6, 7-6, 6-2). But it was too late.

"That second set was huge because at that point the meet was still open," Silver said. "I just felt the crowd screaming and pulling for me, and that helped me through it."

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

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