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With fall play in the books, men's tennis optimistic about the future

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

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The fall season consisted of a number of highs for Iowa men’s tennis, but there is still room for growth in the youthful program.

“Our guys competed a lot this fall and I feel they really gelled as a team,” interim head coach Ross Wilson said. “Plus we were mostly injury-free, which is always a positive.”

Three freshmen made the transition from juniors to the college level, or as Wilson put it, “went from playing boys to men.”

Five-star recruits Josh Silverstein and Jake Jacoby both had strong results in their first fall at Iowa. As a doubles pair, the two reached the Round of 16 at the Big Ten Singles and Doubles Tournament Oct. 31. Earlier in the month the two made a run to the quarterfinals in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Regional Tournament.

Greek freshman Lefteris Theodorou battled mononucleosis and a shoulder injury in the fall, but a recent negative MRI gives the team hope he will be good to go in the spring.

“The first tournament we started slow,” senior Matt Hagan said. “But the last three, everyone was focused, and the results showed.”

Maturity and time management are areas the young ones still need to work on. As college students, the struggle involves putting distractions aside and learning to focus on tennis.

“It’s a learning process,” Hagan said. “You need to manage studying and social things appropriately in order to start making gains in tennis. I’ve definitely seen some of the freshmen pick up on it better than others.”

Speaking of Hagan, the senior came into his own in the fall. After making a run to the semifinals of the regional and giving the country’s No. 3 ranked player all he could handle, Hagan and junior Dominic Patrick won the doubles championship at the Big Ten Singles and Doubles.

“I’m at the point where I feel like I can beat anyone in the country,” Hagan said. “I just have to mentally believe it.”

Hagan and Wilson believe the team will have four or five guys who can play with anyone in the spring. Wilson noted that Theodorou, Hagan, Patrick, and Silverstein have shown the ability to beat top players.

Belgian freshman Stieg Martens, who will join the team next semester, is described by Wilson as mature and a potential wildcard for the Hawkeyes.

“Our depth is very good,” Hagan said. “Stieg could be a great new player coming in for us, and I think all eight guys will be ready to contribute.”

Doubles is looking promising for the Hawkeyes, who already appear to have two strong pairs in Hagan/Patrick and Jacoby/Silverstein. But there is still a third slot that will need to be filled in the spring, and the coaches are intrigued by a number of different possible combinations.

It looks like the upper classmen Hagan and Patrick also have a firm grip on the top of the singles lineup — for now. As far as the other four slots, Silverstein, Theodorou, and Jacoby had the fall results to warrant it, but senior Andres Estenssoro and sophomore Nils Hallestrand have the experience.

For Wilson, the fall also provided an opportunity to establish leadership on and off the court — especially in the wake of losing six seniors from last season to graduation.

“Dom and Hagan showed they can compete with anyone in the country because they work hard every day,” Wilson said. “And Andres is our vocal leader; he brings the energy and enthusiasm that is so vital.”

Overall, the team had a strong fall, especially considering the abundance of youth and coaching changes.

“I saw a high level of intensity from everyone in the fall,” Estenssoro said. “That doesn’t always happen in the fall because the tournaments are more individual-based, so that was nice to see.”


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