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Hawkeye women's tennis recruiting has been strong

BY PATRICK MASON | APRIL 12, 2012 6:30 AM

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Third-year Iowa women's tennis head coach Katie Dougherty has a good idea of the type of players she wants on her team.

Dougherty and assistant coach Jesse Medvene-Collins recruited four current freshmen for their first recruiting class, and all four are in the starting lineup.

"I knew I needed to recruit four impact players right away who weren't so much projects … because I knew we would need them right away," Dougherty said. "Everyone we recruit, I tell them, 'We're recruiting you because I want you to play right away.' "

Dougherty and Medvene-Collins have successfully found athletes who can play right away and transition smoothly to the college level.

That high level of play can be attributed to getting commitments from players who fit and buy into the team dynamic.

"This is part of the building process of the program — the addition of new players that Jesse and I have brought in have our core values and came here to play for us," Dougherty said. "It's a bit different for players that have come in with different coaches, like Sonja [Molnar, a senior recruited by former coach Daryl Greenan], but they've done a great job adapting.

"… The vibe on the team is different, and the expectations now have all been set by us, which is important going forward."

The third-year head coach said she and Medvene-Collins saw a player with great potential when they were recruiting Shelby Talcott. The freshman fell to Purdue senior Jennifer Rabot in two sets in the fall; Talcott faced Rabot again on Sunday and fell in three sets but only lost by 2 points.

"Coach really seemed to be interested in not just keeping me at the level I was at but working to help me to improve — which was important for me," Talcott said. "I felt like her coaching style would also go well with how I learn."

Freshman Morven McCulloch played at the No. 2 spot and won in the same meet against Purdue. She improved to 2-0 at the No. 2 spot this season.

"Shelby will have another year to develop, and Morven will, too," Dougherty said. "They have proven they can win at the top."

Dougherty said freshman Katie Zordani's loud and vocal nature was an immediate sign she would fit well in the program.

"I was being recruited by Wisconsin as well as Iowa," Zordani said. "I liked [Dougherty] a lot, and her attitude. She told me she liked my fire, and she encouraged me to be loud. It's a good fit."

Dougherty said she knew she had to recruit a big group for the first class to her name. She had four spots to fill, but they had to be the right athletes, and she said it was important to go into the process with the right goals.

"We wanted players who are going to be good indoors, and players that have a big weapon they can use in college and get a bit better," Dougherty said. "We've done a ton of research on these players — watched them play so many times during the summer, fall, and the winter. Not just results and the type of people they are, but it's important to know their training habits; if they aren't training in juniors, then they aren't going to snap-to here."

The four freshmen have been successful. Six spots are available in the lineup, and a freshman has played at each one at some point this season. Older team members repeatedly said the freshmen have been training hard and often this season, with an emphasis on conditioning. Dougherty and Medvene-Collins said they're happy with the attitude.

Spectators at Iowa's matches have said they're optimistic about the future of the team because of Dougherty's recruiting abilities. She has many contacts from her years coaching with clinics and teams at various locations throughout the nation.

The team has already inked two incoming freshmen for the fall — one from Pittsburgh and another from England — thus furthering the notion that Dougherty's recruiting abilities are strong.

"We travel to big national tournaments, but we also use our contacts that Jesse and I have," Dougherty said. "We are really recruiting from all over the world. A lot of it is contacts that we've known that have been good with sending players over who are serious about their education and their tennis."


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