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Men's tennis battles but loses

BY JORDAN BUCHER | APRIL 14, 2014 5:00 AM

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It was déjà vu for the Iowa men’s tennis team Sunday afternoon as the Hawkeyes concluded their home season against conference rival No. 42 Northwestern in the Hawkeye Tennis & Recreation Complex. The Hawkeyes recorded their ninth-consecutive loss in a 5-2 decision to the Wildcats.

“I thought we played one of our better matches this year. We came up short but it was to a team with a lot of good wins nationally,” Houghton said. “I was proud of our effort.”

It was a hard-fought battle for the doubles point, which ended with a heartbreaking loss at the No. 3 position. The No. 1 duo of seniors Brian Alden and Michael Swank fell, 8-2. Junior Matt Hagan and Jonas Dierckx kept the Hawkeyes alive for the doubles point, cruising to an 8-4 victory at the No. 2 spot. The No. 3 match, featuring seniors Chase Tomlins and Joey White, was the determining factor.

The pair went head-to-head with Fedor Baev and Strong Kirchheimer of Northwestern. The match was tied at 7-7 and forced into a tiebreaker, which must be won by 2 points. The teams rallied back and forth, and tiebreaker was soon tied at 6-6. The Hawkeyes couldn’t quite seal the deal against the Wildcats, who secured the win, 9-7, and the doubles point.

“They fought hard to get the break back and had a lot of momentum going into the tiebreaker,” assistant coach Ross Wilson said. “There will be matches where it comes down to a number of small points and you have to take advantage of those.”

The meet also served as Senior Day, and with that came a fired-up effort on their part in singles.

“We were thinking about it being Senior Day and wanted to come out intense with it being our last match,” Dierckx said. “We wanted to make the best out of it. You want to give it your all, and we wanted to perform for the fans. We appreciate their support, and that was important for us.”

“They are a great bunch of guys. This group has been really good as student-athletes and as leaders,” head coach Steve Houghton added. “Some of them are vocal leaders, some are leaders by example. Best group of leaders that I have had in a long time.”

Hagan secured the first win for the Hawkeyes at the No. 4 position (7-6 [7-0], 6-3). Following two defeats at the No. 2 and No. 5 positions, Iowa had to win the remaining three matches, which featured seniors Dierckx, Juan Estenssoro, and Swank at the No. 1, No. 3 and No. 6 positions. The three Hawkeyes battled against a tough Northwestern lineup.

Dierckx’s led 1-0 in the third set, when No. 54 Raleigh Smith was forced to retire because of an injury, giving Dierckx the win. Swank dropped his match (7-6 [7-5], 5-7, 6-3), and the Wildcats came away with the meet win. Estenssoro was up 2-0 in the third set, but ultimately fell (4-6, 7-6 [7-3}, 6-4).

“I’m proud of Jonas to pick up two wins against a really good team,” Houghton said. “Hagan is becoming a very good competitor and has been on a bit of a roll recently.”

Dierckx wants to carry the momentum from Sunday’s matches into next week. The Hawkeyes have a tough road ahead of them — they will take on No. 1 Ohio State at 6 p.m. Friday and No. 16 Penn State at noon April 20.


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