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Women's tennis geared up for tough competition

BY ALEC CLASEN | JANUARY 29, 2014 5:00 AM

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The Iowa women’s tennis players will have their hands full this weekend when they travel to Norman, Okla., to take on Oklahoma and Memphis. Both teams are ranked in the top 35.

With Oklahoma coming off of a close loss to No. 12 Alabama and Memphis dropping its last matchup to No. 3 North Carolina, Iowa can expect quite the challenge in the Southwest.

The Hawkeyes are coming off an impressive home-opener last weekend, shutting out Nebraska-Omaha and Northern Iowa, and they are poised to step up their play against two of the strongest teams in the country.

“We are coming off confident from last weekend,” said junior Morven McCulloch.

McCulloch, along with senior Ruth Seaborne, make up the Hawkeyes’ leading doubles tandem. The team will depend on them to set the tone early, hitting on key points that they have worked on in practice. Doubles has been an area of focus for the Hawkeyes in practice throughout the week.

“It’s really important to get that [doubles] point,” Mchulloch said. “We’ve been doing a lot of doubles, working on poaching across the net, and just trying to be as aggressive at the net as we can,”
“We’ve been doing a lot of doubles stuff and doing everything we possibly can to be ready for our opponents,” said sophomore Annette Dohanics.

Aggressiveness at the net in doubles has been something head coach Katie Dougherty has tried to drill into her players early this season, and it shows during matches. Seaborne and McCulloch have displayed excellent play at the net in their first matches, scoring on many backhand slices that their opponents are unable to reach. 

“We’ve had two really productive days,” said Dougherty about practice. “Even with this crazy weather outside, everyone’s come in energized and ready to go.”

The Hawkeyes know their strengths, and they are banking on early success to propel them to victory this weekend. They hope all the drills and doubles work they have done this week will pay off, because Oklahoma took the No. 2 and No. 3 doubles spots last time these two teams met to earn the doubles point.

Statistically, Memphis and Oklahoma rank much higher than the Hawkeyes in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association ratings, but, the Hawks feel strong after their successful weekend.

“On paper, we’re the underdog to both of them, and we are fine with that coming in,” Dougherty said.
“It’s definitely good coming off these two wins,” Dohanics said. “Oklahoma and Memphis both take those losses — it definitely puts a lot of pressure on them.”

Last season, the Hawkeyes fell to Oklahoma, 4-3, at home. They have not faced Memphis under Dougherty.

“We had a tough one last year with Oklahoma,” she said. “They are a very good team coming off a great result last weekend … Memphis, obviously is a very good team; they’re loaded with talent.”


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