Iowa women's tennis to start Big Ten play

BY ALEC CLASEN | MARCH 13, 2014 5:00 AM

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The Iowa women’s tennis team is set to take on Nebraska at 3 p.m. Friday to kick off their Big Ten schedule in a pivotal away match. The Hawks are coming off a confidence-building road win against Drake, upsetting the Bulldogs in front of a hostile crowd.

“It’s our first Big Ten match; we’ve got to start it off on the right foot,” head coach Katie Dougherty said. “We haven’t beaten them in a number of years, and honestly, it’d be huge for us for our confidence and our momentum.”

After stunning Drake in Des Moines, the Hawks hope to bring their recently exceptional play with them to Lincoln. The feeling after the Drake match was one of pride and excitement, but the Hawkeyes aren’t content.

“It was a great team win all around,” sophomore Annette Dohanics said. “Drake always brings a tough crowd — the building was loud, but we did our jobs and pulled it together to put points on the board.”

Even with the Iowa playing arguably its best tennis of the season, Nebraska presents a different set of challenges. The Hawkeyes have yet to take down the Huskers since they joined the Big Ten conference in 2012. Dougherty knows the team will encounter a solid squad on Friday and is preparing her team for an intense match.

“Nebraska was in the Sweet 16 last year and lost a few seniors, but they know what it means to be good — they are used to winning, so it will be a really good test on the road,” she said.

In practice, the Hawkeyes have stuck to their usual grind. The Hawks’ work ethic, they believe, has helped them to muster the extra effort needed to win close, tight matches. With a somewhat lengthy break in between matches, Dougherty’s squad has tried to stay fresh.

“We’ve done a bit of competing, working on depth,” she said. “It’s tough when you have that kind of layoff in between matches. But all in all, we’ve had some great practices since, and we’re looking forward to a great performance.”

The Hawkeyes have strung together four wins in a row for the first time since they did it twice during the 2009 campaign, and they hope to keep that streak alive.

“All of these matches that we’ve won has given us so much confidence,” junior Morven McCulloch said. “Now that we’re about to start Big Tens, we’re just looking forward to beating the Huskers in our first conference match.”

Nebraska is on a three-match winning streak since losing to the Hawkeyes’ most recent opponent, Drake. With the win over Drake, the Haws reign supreme over the state, besting all the in-state opponents they have played.

“The win puts us in a good position; now we’re perfect in state,” Dohanics said. “We like to keep that in our pocket as we move on to Big Ten play.”

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