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Iowa tennis youngsters forced into debuts

BY TOM CLOS | APRIL 11, 2012 6:30 AM

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The Iowa men's tennis team has tried everything to fix the bottom of its singles lineup.

Injuries to senior Chris Speer and sophomore Chase Tomlins — coupled with seven combined wins at the No. 5 and No. 6 spots — forced head coach Steve Houghton to dip into his fountain of youth.

Enter three Hawks with little playing experience at the college level: junior Connor Gilmore, sophomore Joey White, and freshman Andres Estensorro.

The three never played before this season, and they have combined for a 0-8 record this season.

Estensorro has seen action only once. He lost (6-0, 6-4) in the No. 6 slot to then-No. 18 Illinois on March 4.

The Bolivian said it was nice to get his feet wet, but he became conscious of the high stakes in college tennis after the match.

"It's great experience, but sometimes, it's tough," Estensorro said. "I didn't try to feel too much pressure out there."

Gilmore has participated in three matches this spring, going 0-2 at No. 5 and 0-1 in the No. 6 spot.

The Madison, Wis., native is winless, but he said he relishes each opportunity and can't wait for his number to be called again.

"I'm excited — I love to go out and play," Gilmore said. "When you wake up and you know you have the chance to play, you get real excited."

White, sitting at 0-3, said the changing lineup has negatively affected his game.

"It's tough going in random; you get no rhythm," White said. "It's hard to put together a complete match."

All three said full preparation and staying sharp in practice is key to avoiding complacency while getting a limited amount of playing time.

White said he maintains the same routine prior to each meet, whether he ends up on the court or not.

"I'll mimic a match," White said about his warm-up habits. "If you never go in, at least you can say you were prepared."

Gilmore said it's particularly important to bring high enthusiasm each day as well, with the hope that he'll get the nod.

"I come with the mindset that I'm playing every week," Gilmore said. "You have to be ready and excited at all time."

Estensorro said there's no better preparation for a match than good, old-fashioned repetition in practice.

"There's no secret; you just have to practice," Estensorro said. "You try to improve your game so when you get that opportunity, you're ready."

The Hawkeyes are in the midst of a tumultuous 1-17 season with the bottom of the lineup fluctuating each week. White said the lineup always a mystery until the meet officially starts.

What is known, though, is that the players have to be ready at all times.

"You have got to be prepared," White said. "You never really know who's going to go in."

Follow DI men's tennis reporter Tom Clos on Twitter.


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