Hawks set to battle top-five Big Ten teams

BY JOSH HICKS | APRIL 10, 2015 5:00 AM

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The Hawkeye women’s tennis team has its work cut out this weekend as it plays its last two home dual matches of the season.

Iowa will host No. 18 Ohio State (15-4, 7-0) at 4 p.m. today and No. 64 Penn State (9-9, 5-2) at 11 a.m. on April 12.

The latter is Senior Day, but the Hawkeyes are trying to focus on winning.

“It’s a day to celebrate the past four years of us being here, but it’s tough to play on Senior Day,” senior Katie Zordani said. “You can’t let your emotions get to you on the court. We’ll have to be mentally tough.”

Iowa (8-9, 2-5) has the all-time edge against both teams, 23-20 against the Buckeyes and 25-4 against the Nittany Lions.

The Hawks also have home-court advantage going for them this weekend. The Black & Gold are 6-4 at home this season and a dismal 2-5 away from Iowa City.

Home-court advantage aside, it could be a tough weekend for the Hawkeyes. Ohio State hasn’t lost a match against a conference opponent yet this season and sits at second in the Big Ten.

Last season, the Buckeyes ranked No. 34 in the country when they came into town and won, 6-1. In 2013, the Hawkeyes collected a 6-1 victory over the then No. 70 Buckeyes.

Ohio State has won its last nine matches in a row and hasn’t dropped a dual since March 1, when Baylor blanked them, 4-0.

“We just have to go in there like it’s any other match,” Zordani said. “We have to be confident; anyone on any day can beat anyone.” 

Fellow senior Ellen Silver agreed.

“Every match is winnable,” the Michigan native said. “We’ll be ready.”

Penn State is fifth in the conference and in the mix for third with Minnesota and Northwestern, which also have 5-2 conference records.

Last year, Iowa defeated Penn State, 6-1. In 2013, the Nittany Lions took a 6-1 victory.

Penn State has only lost two Big Ten matches, Northwestern and Ohio State. The Nittany Lions are riding a five-match winning streak and are up against Nebraska this evening.

Iowa is 1-2 in its last three matches upon losing senior and No. 1 singles player Shelby Talcott (10-3) to an injury.

“Morven [McCulloch]’s done a great job stepping in at the No. 1 spot, and we just need to step up at some of those other spots,” Iowa head coach Katie Dougherty said. “I think part of it is just becoming a little more comfortable at that spot.”

Follow @joshhicks90 on Twitter for news, updates, and analysis about the Iowa women’s tennis team.

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