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Iowa women's tennis falls, but Molnar, Talcott beat ranked opponents

BY PATRICK MASON | APRIL 16, 2012 6:30 AM

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Sonja Molnar ran to the right sideline and watched a bright green tennis ball land out of bounds.

The crowd erupted as Molnar — with her left hamstring taped and her black-and-gold racket in her right hand — raced to the net to shake hands with her defeated opponent, Michigan's No. 11 Emina Bektas.

Bektas is the highest-ranked opponent No. 103 Molnar has defeated in her career — and even though Iowa fell to the No. 14 Wolverines, 5-2, Molnar said she was proud of her accomplishment.

"I just thought, 'Don't mess it up this time,' " she said and laughed. "It was literally just don't miss and breathe."

She didn't miss. She took a commanding 9-5 lead in the first-to-10 tiebreaker, but Bektas stormed back to tie it at 9.

Molnar scored with a shot down the line, then Bektas hit a ball out of bounds to secure the victory for Molnar.

"I definitely wanted this one," Molnar said. "And it will boost my ranking, which is nice; obviously, it's the end of the season, which is too bad, but it's still really good."

Hawkeye freshman Shelby Talcott earned her first win against a nationally ranked opponent, defeating No. 75 Brooke Bolender in a similar fashion as Molnar. Talcott won the third-set tiebreaker, 10-4.

Michigan came to Iowa on Sunday with three ranked singles players and the No. 6 doubles team in the nation.

The Hawkeyes lost to the Wolverines, 5-2, when all was said and done — but those 2 points had everybody in the Hawkeye Tennis & Recreation Complex on their feet.

"It always does," Iowa head coach Katie Dougherty said when asked if the crowd helps athletes pull through. "The acoustics in this place are such that if people are being loud, it's a great atmosphere. It's a blast, and it's always fun to play in front of our home crowd and everybody's fired up. That win means a lot for Sonja, and I know she really appreciated that."

The Wolverines' Bektas has one of the hardest serves Iowa has faced; assistant coach Jesse Medvene-Collins said after the match that he hasn't seen anything like it before.

Molnar also said she has never seen Bektas' type of serve before — "not in women's tennis," the senior said.

The key to her victory was to be able to handle the serve and stick to her game.

"I knew coming in that Bektas is a great player with a ton of weapons," Dougherty said. "That serve is unbelievable, and Sonja was able to neutralize it."

Although Iowa received some late heroics, the team came away from the weekend 1-1. The Hawkeyes defeated Michigan State, 5-2, on April 13.

Iowa looked banged up on Sunday — almost everyone had tape on muscles or braces on ankles. Freshman Ellen Silver didn't compete at all on Sunday, and she had to retire from her singles match early on April 13. She has been experiencing back problems, and they flared up in her third set. Dougherty said she expects her freshman back next weekend.

But the Black and Gold still took a lot away from the two meets.

"Confidence-wise, we gained a lot this weekend. Played well on Friday night against Michigan State, and then Michigan is a very good team," Dougherty said. "They're a little bit better than we are, and for Sonja to get a huge win like that and for Shelby to also get a ranked win, I think we finished the match the right way."

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


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