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Iowa set for first-round match against Wisconsin

BY BLAKE DOWSON | APRIL 23, 2015 5:00 AM

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The Iowa men’s tennis team will head to Champaign, Illinois, today for the Big Ten Tournament, planning to take it one game at a time.

Iowa came into the year with hopes of making the NCAA Tournament, but heading into the Big Ten tourney, it looks as if it will have to put its dream on hold for at least another year.

In all reality, the Hawkeyes would have to run the table and win the Big Ten Tournament, going through No. 4 Illinois in the second round and possible matchups against No. 30 Northwestern and No. 12 Ohio State in the third and fourth rounds.

“To get in [the NCAA Tournament], we have to win the whole thing,” interim head coach Ross Wilson said. “The Big Ten is so tough, there are so many top-50 teams. We’re just focusing on beating Wisconsin.”

The Hawkeyes tied for seventh in the always-tough Big Ten with Michigan State but lost the tiebreaker with the Spartans because of the head-to-head loss they suffered on March 29.

Iowa will take on the ninth seed Wisconsin in a rematch of the March 22 contest in Iowa City. In the Hawkeyes’ first home outdoor match of the season, they came away with a hard fought 4-3 victory over the Badgers.

“The first time we played Wisconsin, the conditions were really tough,” senior Matt Hagan said. “It was really windy and really cold, but we got it done.”

The Hawkeyes dropped the doubles point against Wisconsin, but bounced back nicely in singles play to grab the win, their first of the year in the conference.

Iowa is exponentially more experienced than it was when it first faced Wisconsin. The four freshmen now have a full season in the Big Ten under their belt. Lefteris Theodorou and Josh Silverstein are playing more like experienced upperclassmen than freshmen.

However, the scene of the Big Ten tournament will be new to the youngest members of the Iowa squad, something Wilson said they have not talked about.

“We haven’t really talked much [about the tournament],” he said. “We just look at it as a match against Wisconsin. The thing we talked about was gaining experience. Experience is the best teacher right now.”

With five of the six starters returning next season, gaining experience at the tourney would not be a bad consolation prize.

On the other side of the coin, if Iowa does not win the tournament, it will mean the end of a career for its best player, Hagan.

“Matt has been a great leader for me and the whole team this year,” freshman Jake Jacoby said. “He has led us at the No. 1 spot all year and helped me personally get acclimated to being a student-athlete at Iowa.”

As for the senior’s mindset going into his final conference tournament, he said he just wants to play good tennis.

“I just want to compete as hard as I can,” Hagan said. “These are my last couple matches; I want to finish my college career on a good note playing my best tennis.”

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


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