Hicks: Hawks have work to do

BY JOSH HICKS | APRIL 22, 2015 5:00 AM

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Despite a wealth of seniors, including players at the No. 1 and No. 2 singles spots, the Iowa women’s tennis team ended the year at just 2-9 in conference play and will have to make do next year with a younger, less-experienced team.

The four seniors — Shelby Talcott, Morven McCulloch, Katie Zordani, and Ellen Silver — combined to start 66 singles matches for the Hawkeyes this year but managed only 34 wins.

For a team that is graduating its top two players, was 0-9 against ranked opponents, went 1-7 on the road, and only won two dual-matches in the Big Ten, the build-up to next season is going to have to contain leaps of improvement from every player on the roster.

Barring any transfer students, Iowa will have only one senior next year, Annette Dohanics, who finished this season with a 7-11 record. She was 3-5 at No. 4 but fell to 1-6 when she moved up to No. 3.

If Dohanics is the lone senior for the Hawkeyes, she’s going to have to improve on that 1-6 record; she will likely be playing at either No. 2 or No. 3 next season.

Just three other returning players saw action this season — sophomore Aimee Tarun and a pair of freshmen, Anastasia Reimchen and Zoe Douglas. The returning players finished the year with a combined record of 20-31 (.392).

Iowa hasn’t had a winning record in the Big Ten since 2010, head coach Katie Dougherty’s first season, when it went 6-4 against conference opponents.

When Dougherty came in, she posted the best regular-season record by a first-year head coach in program history and the best record Iowa had as a team since 2006. She had the Hawkeyes as high as No. 18 in the country that year, and they ended the season at No. 26.

After Dougherty’s first season at Iowa, however, the Hawkeyes haven’t had nearly as much success, failing to break the .500 mark in conference play.

Talcott and McCulloch — members of the first exclusively Dougherty-recruited class of players Iowa has had — played at the No. 1 and No. 2 singles spots for the majority of the season. Talcott’s injury after the Drake match on March 25 left her sidelined from singles for the season’s last seven matches.

However, with both Talcott and McCulloch graduating, Reimchen may find herself at the No. 1 spot next year as a sophomore. Talcott played at No. 1 in just two duals before her final year; she had plenty of time to work her way into it. Reimchen may not have that luxury.

Iowa is going to need to rapidly develop the young talent it has in Tarun, Reimchen, Douglas, and freshman Montana Crawford if it wants to have success in the Big Ten next season. Aside from Reimchen, who played at No. 2 and No. 3 all season, winning only one singles match, the younger players are considerably inexperienced.

Tarun competed in three matches this season at the No. 6 position. Crawford didn’t see any playing time, and Douglas came onto the scene late, playing as high as No. 4 and finishing with an overall singles record of 6-4.

For a team that was chock full of seniors, it’s a bit of an understatement to say only winning two dual-matches in the Big Ten and going 1-7 on the road was a disappointing season.

The Hawkeyes are going to have their work cut out for them next year, and success in the conference is going to depend on how quickly Dougherty can mature her players.

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