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Hagan stands tall as leader for Hawkeye men’s tennis

BY CHARLIE GREEN | SEPTEMBER 18, 2014 5:00 AM

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At 6-6, Iowa men’s tennis senior Matt Hagan towers over his teammates.

Aside from sophomore Nils Hallestrand, who stands 6-5, none of the other five players surpasses the 6-foot mark.

“It really helps me with my serve,” Hagan said. “I can hit the ball hard and use my long arms for an effective forehand.”

But this disparity in height is nothing compared with the gap in experience between Hagan and the rest of his team.

As a freshman in 2012, the Omaha native was thrust into a premier role for the Hawkeyes, taking on some of the best competition in the Big Ten and in all of college tennis.

“I think I played against two or three All-Americans that year,” Hagan said. “It helped me see how hard I needed to work to get to that level.”

That season, he played in a remarkable 15 dual singles matches at the No. 1 position, albeit finishing just 1-14. To put that in perspective, the rest of the roster accounted for only six of the No. 1 matches, going 1-5.

“That’s a tough position for a freshman to be in,” Iowa interim head coach Ross Wilson said. “To come in and be expected to win against some of the best players in the country, it’s a tall task.”

Current senior Andres Estensorro played in just two singles matches that year as a freshman — coming at the fifth and sixth positions.

The next most experienced player on the roster is junior Dominic Patrick, who has gone 22-20 in dual singles over the past two seasons.

“[Hagan is] the best on our team right now in terms of winning practice sets,” Patrick said. “He’s a good leader, too, which is something this young team can’t get enough of.”

In his sophomore season of 2013, 11 of Hagan’s 24 singles matches at the No. 1 position, at which he earned five of his eight wins of the season.

Last year, Hagan’s role changed from what it had been in his first two years. He played the majority of his singles matches at the No. 4 spot and did not play any in the No. 1 or 2 spots.

Playing in a lower position, Hagan posted his best singles record in his time at Iowa, going 11-9 overall, 5-6 in conference play.

“Last year, he was able to win a lot of matches and gain some confidence,” Wilson said. “It was a huge developmental year for him.”

Hagan’s improvement in singles last season is encouraging for a team with so little experience.

Overall, he has compiled a record of 21-46 in dual-meet singles play in three years at Iowa, and an impressive 33-19 mark in dual-meet doubles matches.

Hallestrand, Patrick, and Estensorro have played in a combined 63 singles matches in their time at Iowa.

Hagan has played in 67, accounting for more than half of the total dual singles matches played by members on the current roster, which includes three freshmen now, with a fourth coming in the spring semester.

Dual play does not start until January, giving coaches a long time to figure out what position Hagan and others will play in singles and doubles competition.

But one thing is for sure: with a wealth of experience, Hagan will be looked to as the leader on this young team.

“He’s always been a great leader, and he is one of the reasons I chose to come to Iowa,” freshman Jake Jacoby said. “Just seeing his complete work ethic is inspiring to the whole team.”


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