Big Ten Tournament: Iowa men's tennis' disappointing season ends

BY TOM CLOS | APRIL 26, 2012 6:30 AM

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The chance that the Iowa men's tennis team can win four matches in four days after an 0-11 mark in regular-season Big Ten play looks rather improbable.

Throw in the Hawkeyes' ongoing 19-meet losing streak, and the task looks nearly impossible.

Iowa will have to pull of the impossible if it wishes to keep its season alive after this weekend as it heads to the Big Ten Tournament in Evanston, Ill., on Thursday. Barring a miraculous run to the title, the tournament will serve as the final resting place for the Iowa seniors' collegiate careers.

The 2012 campaign was a year that was supposed to be memorable, but it has been anything but that for Mitch Beckert, Tom Mroziewicz, Chris Speer, and Will Vasos.

The senior foursome finished with a combined 4-37 singles record this spring. Mroziewicz and Vasos, the two who were supposed to lead the Hawkeyes in doubles, went 2-6 as a duo this season.

Mroziewicz said that though 2012 was disappointing, the big picture outweighs this past season's struggles.

"I've definitely had a memorable career," Mrozoewicz said. "There were a lot of ups and downs, but there are some things I will take with me from here for the rest of my life. I'm grateful of what I have become after four years."

Head coach Steve Houghton said each senior made his own mark on the program, and the class will leave Iowa with a lasting legacy.

"Will was the guy who played the most, and Tom certainly made his contributions," Houghton said. "Mitch was a good story in terms of moving up from the 13th man on the roster to the lineup. Chris was a good story in terms of not playing for three years, having a great fall — then the injury turned him effectively into an assistant coach, where he's done a good job too."

The Hawkeyes enter the conference tournament as the No. 12 seed and will take on No. 5-seeded No. 27 Indiana (21-8, 7-4 Big Ten), in the first round.

Houghton said each school the Hawkeyes line up against this weekend will have little respect for his team because of its low seed.

"There's no question that our opponents will be overlooking us, for sure," Houghton said. "Whoever we play, we'll have probably lost to already."

Vasos said he's looking at the tournament as an opportunity for revenge on the teams that kicked the Hawkeyes while they were down this spring.

"Hopefully we can get some vengeance from a team we've played before," Vasos said. "All we can really do is keep fighting."

For the Hawkeyes to make it to Friday, the team must be firing on all cylinders while accepting the fact that it's a big underdog.

"To do well, it's no secret that we need to have all of our guys playing well," Houghton said. "We have to hope that [Indiana] is off a little bit. That is the reality of things."

Houghton said there's one element that might work to Iowa's advantage this weekend.

"A factor that could help us is that we could play somebody at the tournament outdoors that we played before indoors," Houghton said. "Some of these teams are better indoors rather than outdoors, and vice-versa."

Still, to pull off the unthinkable, the Hawkeyes need everything to fall into place.

"We're going to have to play really well and hope our opponents aren't playing their best," Houghton said. "And maybe a little luck on the side."

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