Commentary: Seeking the elusive doubles point


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The 2014 Iowa men’s tennis team was dealt the same cards as last season, graduating only one senior from its 2012-13 roster and gaining just one newcomer. There’s only so much that can be done with a hand of 8s and 9s against teams that easily have kings and aces. The future didn’t look so bright for the Hawkeyes — and it wasn’t.

But in their defense, the Hawkeyes are a better team than what the final score indicates, and only someone who attends the matches could justify that as true.

At a glance, Iowa’s schedule is contaminated with a strand of Ls that appear on the right-hand side.
As head coach Steve Houghton said, the team is snake-bitten in terms of 4-3 losses to Big Ten rivals.

The truth of the matter is that Iowa isn’t a good clutch team. The W was practically dangling in front of their faces in at least four matches (Western Michigan, Indiana, Nebraska, and Northwestern) this season, and the Hawkeyes couldn’t quite snatch it.

Iowa is the only team in the Big Ten that doesn’t have a national ranking and, in a sport that recognizes the top 75 teams in the country, one win over a nationally ranked opponent is enough to put the Hawkeyes on the map.

Coming off of a disappointing 7-17 record last year and returning all but one to their roster this year, the results from this campaign have been eerily similar.

At the start of the 2013-14, Iowa showed signs of promise in nonconference play, earning all nine of its wins so far this season. But it wasn’t long until the Hawkeyes fell into their old ways, stumbling down the stretch to a 9-14 record overall, 1-10 in the Big Ten.

Unlike last year, however, the Hawkeyes have adopted a more aggressive style of play, thanks to assistant coach Ross Wilson, and have proved themselves as a team capable of competing against Big Ten opponents.  

The main issue for the Hawkeyes this season in conference play has been their inability to win the decisive doubles point. 

In the span of just over a week, the Hawkeyes ultimately failed to clinch a decisive tiebreaker match in doubles play against Indiana, were swept by Nebraska three days later in tight matches, and lost to No. 35 Northwestern on April 13 in a match the could have just as easily been a win if it weren’t for — you guessed it — the doubles point.

Once again, the No. 3 duo of Chase Tomlins and Joey White found themselves in a decisive 7-point tiebreaker, which teams must win by 2. The duo was just one point away from claiming the match at 8-7, but the end result wasn’t there, just as it wasn’t against the Hoosiers and Huskers, and the Wildcats clinched the tiebreaker, 9-7, to win the match and claim the doubles point. 

It’s been a close but no cigar type of season for the Hawkeyes this spring, but Iowa will have one more chance to make its own luck with the Big Ten Tournament taking place this week.

One thing is certain, though — the Black and Gold will have to play its cards wisely if they hope to pull off an upset and change the expectations for the program when next season rolls around.

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