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Big Ten one of tennis's best conferences

BY DOMINICK WHITE | APRIL 17, 2013 5:00 AM

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The Iowa men’s tennis team has faced stiff competition over the course of the Big Ten season, leaving them in search of their first Big Ten win of the spring.

The conference has established itself as one of the premier tennis conferences in the nation. The Big Ten fields the second-most ranked teams in the country with 10 — that trails just the SEC, which leads that category with 12.

“Everyone in the Big Ten is tough; anyone can beat everyone,” Iowa sophomore Matt Hagan said. “Everyone is a top-tier player, so there aren’t any easy matches. We have to work really hard in every match if we want to win.”

Iowa head coach Steve Houghton is no stranger to the fierce competition the league brings to Iowa’s schedule. Houghton is in his 32nd year as a head coach in the conference.

He’s seen the competition level increase throughout those years.

“One thing that stands out is that it used to be some teams had soft spots in the lineup, meaning they had holes in the back of the lineup or weak doubles play,” Houghton said. “Those holes are no longer there. Every team has very solid players up and down the lineup from top to bottom. There’s really no room for error when facing Big Ten opponent.”

Ohio State is a good example of well-balanced team with quality talent throughout. The Buckeyes lead the Big Ten with a 26-2 record, and their lineup showcases five ranked singles players with three doubles teams ranked in the top 40. Teams such as Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Minnesota all have numerous ranked doubles and singles players on their rosters.

Iowa junior Jonas Dierckx has seen his fair share of ranked opponents during the Big Ten season. Dierckx is the Hawkeyes’ top singles player and plays with Juan Estenssoro in doubles play.

“I’ve basically been playing nationally ranked players every week,” Dierckx said. “I’ve played five or six top-20 players this season, which is tough, but it’s good that we are in such a competitive conference. It will make us better.”

Iowa’s men’s tennis team is still battling to pick up its first conference victory of the year, and the time to do so is quickly dwindling with just two league meets left.

The Hawkeyes have welcomed the challenge of competing in the Big Ten, regardless of their troubles this season, because playing in a prestigious conference is what brought them to the Iowa City in the first place.

“I always get the most pumped up for the Big Ten matches,” Iowa captain Garret Dunn said. “You see these guys every year, so there’s a lot of competitiveness there. It’s one of the best tennis conferences in the country, and that’s one of the reasons a lot of us came to Iowa: to play against the some of the best players in the country.”


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