Hawkeyes show progress despite sub .500 record

BY DOMINICK WHITE | MAY 01, 2013 5:00 AM

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The Iowa men’s tennis team wrapped up the 2013 spring season last week at the Big Ten Tournament. The Hawkeyes lost to Northwestern in the opening round and finished with an overall 7-17 record this past season.

The Hawkeyes started off the season by winning six of their first seven matches. Doubles play excelled during the strong start, and Iowa didn’t lose an opening doubles point until facing No. 27 Drake on Feb. 27.

Then came trouble. Iowa faced a slew of ranked opponents, and its record began to plummet. The Hawkeyes’ schedule was littered with 13 ranked opponents after defeating Western Michigan on Feb. 24 — including all but one of their Big Ten opponents. Iowa didn’t win a single conference meet this season.

“We played a lot of teams really close, but we couldn’t capitalize on the big points,” redshirt junior Brian Alden said. “We need to work really hard this summer and come into next year with a chip on our shoulder and confidence that we can compete in the Big Ten.”

Alden’s teammates iterated his statements, and they believe the Hawkeyes are on the cusp of being a competitive team in the Big Ten.

“I think we made progress from the year before,” sophomore Matt Hagan said. “I feel that we are really close to being a good team. It’s just going to take one more jump for us to get where we want to be.”

The Hawkeye lineup will receive a substantial boost when Alden, a former Illinois and Florida State transfer, becomes eligible. He was a nationally ranked recruit coming out of high school and was an impact player in the Fighting Illini lineup.

The Barrington, Ill., native figures to bring more firepower to the Black and Gold’s doubles and singles lineups.

“I have a lot of experience in doubles, so I can help out there even though I think we did well in doubles this year,” Alden said. “I think I bring an edge to the court and more swagger to our team.”

The Black and Gold did improve this year after a dreadful 1-22 campaign during the 2012 season. There’s reason to expect the Hawkeyes to make significant strides next year, because they graduate only one senior.

There’s plenty of talent and experience coming back to the Black and Gold lineup — the team will return five of its top six doubles players from this season — and Iowa junior Jonas Dierckx believes an older and more experienced tennis squad will aid the Hawkeyes in closing out matches next year.

“[E]xperience will help us a lot next year,” he said. “We will have six seniors in the lineup, which is pretty incredible.”

Iowa head coach Steve Houghton expects his team to come back with a sense of urgency dedicated toward turning things around next season.

“I’m really optimistic about next year,” Iowa men’s tennis coach Steve Houghton said. “These guys are tired of losing, and we weren’t that far off from having a successful year. I feel this group will be really determined to do well, and that will go a long way toward being successful next year.”

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