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Iowa heads to Illinois

BY BLAKE DOWSON | APRIL 10, 2015 5:00 AM

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The Iowa men’s tennis team will head to Illinois this weekend for matches against Illinois and Northwestern with one thing in mind — earning respect.

“We’re going over there this weekend, and we’re going to play to get some respect,” interim head coach Ross Wilson said. “Teams like Illinois, Ohio State have dominated the conference for the past 15 years. It means a lot to play well against them.”

Illinois (19-3, 7-0) is ranked No. 3 in the country and sits at the top of the Big Ten standings. The Fighting Illini have played arguably the toughest schedule in the Big Ten, compiling a 10-3 record against ranked teams.

The Fighting Illini have top-25 wins against No. 2 Baylor, No. 7 Texas A&M, twice against No. 11 Ohio State, No. 9 Texas, and No. 16 North Carolina.

Illinois’ only losses on the year have come from No. 6 Duke, No. 8 Georgia, and No. 10 TCU.

“Top to bottom, [the Illini] are really good,” Wilson said. “They’re third in the nation for a reason. They play an unbelievable schedule, and they have an experienced lineup.

“Our guys have a great opportunity this weekend to play against the top competition in the nation.”

Freshman Jake Jacoby said that the win against Nebraska on Wednesday, and the nature of that win, will help the Hawkeyes carry some momentum into the weekend.

“[Nebraska’s] place was under construction,” Jacoby said. “We didn’t know where we would play. We were mentally tough to get through that match, and we definitely have the confidence we need moving forward.”

It will take the Hawkeyes’ best performance of the year to take down the Illini. The team has built a program Wilson dreams of building at Iowa.

For a team that has not been immune to mental lapses during the course of the year, Iowa will have to be mentally focused every minute of its match. Windows of opportunity are a lot smaller against teams such as Illinois.

The Hawkeyes will take on the No. 26 Northwestern Wildcats (16-7, 5-2) on April 12 in Evanston seeking revenge from their close loss at home to the Wildcats last year.

The Hawkeyes took the Wildcats to match point in doubles but could not hold on, losing the match, 5-2.

“Northwestern is another extremely good team,” Wilson said. “We had a tight match last year, came close in doubles, and we won No. 1 and No. 4 singles.”

The Wildcats have played 14 ranked matches on the year and have compiled an 8-6 record in those matches.

Wilson said he is excited to see how his young team reacts on the road against the tough competition this weekend.

With four freshmen on the roster, the Hawkeyes are a largely inexperienced team.

If the Hawks have aspirations of making the NCAA Tournament, matches such as these will help them gauge where they are at in the hunt.

“I don’t know what to expect,” Wilson said. “The guys haven’t played against this caliber yet. We’re going to learn a lot about our team this weekend.

“We want to go over there, play well, and earn some respect within our conference.”


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