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Men’s tennis set for tournament

BY JORDAN BUCHER | APRIL 24, 2014 5:00 AM

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It’s do or die in tournament play, and this year, the Iowa men’s tennis team (9-14, 1-10) is looking for redemption heading into the postseason of the 2014 Big Tournament.

The Hawkeyes, the No. 12 seed, will head to East Lansing, Mich., where they will face fifth-seeded Northwestern in the first round of tournament action beginning Thursday at 10 a.m. The two teams met in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament a year ago when the Wildcats took out the Hawkeyes, 4-1.

This season, No. 32 Northwestern (19-9, 7-4) was able to echo similar results as last year against Iowa. The teams faced off recently in Iowa’s home finale on April 13. The Wildcats kept its winning ways over the Hawkeyes, securing a 5-2 victory behind a few close and decisive matches.

Northwestern has been on a roll lately, recording a seven-game winning streak that recently included a pair of 7-0 sweeps against Wisconsin and No. 51 Minnesota last weekend.

“Northwestern is a very good team, but when we played them recently it was a very close match. It was a 5-2 score but had the feel of a 4-3 match,” head coach Steve Houghton said. “From a matchup standpoint and confidence standpoint, we have a good chance at winning. [The team] has played hard and practiced hard all year and if they do that against Northwestern then we will have a really good chance.”

The Hawkeyes received wins from senior Jonas Dierckx at the No. 1 position and junior Matt Hagan, playing at No. 4. Dierckx defeated then-No. 54 Raleigh Smith, who was forced to retire due to injury after trailing 1-0 in the third set. Hagan triumphed over Mihir Kumar in straight sets, 7-6 (7-0), 6-3.

Dierckx has been coming on hot for the Hawkeyes in the final stretch of his career in the Black and Gold uniform. In his past three matches, the senior has registered two upset victories over ranked opponents — Smith and No. 37 Leonard Stakhovsky of Penn State. In the latest ITA rankings released on Tuesday, Dierckx appeared at No. 124. This marks the first singles rankings for the Hawkeyes since Marc Bruche was ranked No. 93 in 2012.

“It’s great a feeling. I’ve never had a ranking before and it’s great way to finish my tennis career at Iowa,” Dierckx said. “I’m definitely more confident going into the tournament because of that.”

Dierckx will help pace the team against Northwestern’s singles lineup, which features No. 46 Smith and No. 120 Sam Shropshire. The Wildcats’ No. 1 doubles team of Smith and Kumar is ranked 28th in the country.

Could it be third times the charm for the Hawkeyes against Northwestern? The ‘do or die’ mentality of tournament play has given Iowa’s six seniors an extra boost of determination heading into today’s match.  

“Tournaments are a lot of pressure because anything can happen and you never know when your last match will be,” said White. “We have six seniors on the team, so that will motivate us. I know those guys are ready to give it their all because no one wants to go home the first round, and Northwestern is a team we are definitely capable of beating.”

The winner of this round will go on to play the No. 4 seed Purdue on Friday.


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