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Dowson: Hawkeyes head into offseason refreshed

BY BLAKE DOWSON | APRIL 28, 2015 5:00 AM

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The Iowa men’s tennis team lost in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament last weekend to end its season, but the Hawkeyes should have their heads held high going into the off-season.

The 2015 squad made tremendous gains for the program behind interim head coach Ross Wilson.

Iowa finished the year 14-11 overall, with a 4-7 record in the Big Ten. The team picked up two top-75 wins during the season on its way to an eighth-place finish in the Big Ten.

Iowa beat Wisconsin convincingly in the first round of the Big Ten tournament, 4-0, earning a tournament victory for the first time in five years.

The Hawkeyes jumped into the national rankings on Feb. 24 and spent the last 10 weeks of their season in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association top 75, climbing as high as No. 45.

Wilson, a 31-year old Ohio State graduate, was a breath of fresh air for the program. After 33 years at the helm, longtime head coach Steve Houghton retired before the beginning of the season.

Wilson’s first recruiting class provided a big impact, with two five-star recruits in Josh Silverstein and Jake Jacoby and two players with professional experience in Stieg Martens and Lefteris Theodorou.

The four freshmen all played important roles for the Hawkeyes, making the future extremely bright for the squad.

Theodorou has positioned himself to take over as the No. 1 player in place of senior Matt Hagan, and he shared the team lead in victories at 16 with Silverstein. Jacoby was third on the team with 14 wins, one of those coming against No. 3 Illinois, with two match-clinching singles wins.

Accounting for two-thirds of the starting lineup, the freshmen set the tone for the Hawkeyes throughout the year. Each freshman played with a tremendous amount of fire and passion, something not as easily seen from the upperclassmen.

Hagan was the steady force at the top of the lineup for Iowa, and he will be missed next year. In a conference that boasts countless top players, Hagan consistently stepped up to the plate against the best players in college tennis, earning first team all-conference honors.

Despite the loss of Hagan, the groundwork that the Hawkeyes laid this season sets them up well for next year.

The product Iowa put on the courts this past season is a step in the right direction for a program that has struggled in recently. There was a different feel at Iowa tennis matches this year — the sense that the Hawkeyes were never out of any match.

The key to sustained success in the program is locking up Wilson as the head coach of the future. In one year as the lead man, he has brought in a successful group of freshmen and has boasted a first-team all-conference athlete.

If the Hawkeyes continue to play with passion and pick up good recruiting classes, they can start competing with such teams as Illinois and Ohio State in the not-too-distant future.

Not many people would have thought that before the start of this season, but the Hawkeyes have put themselves in a position now where expectations can be raised.

Follow @B_Dows4 on Twitter for news, updates, and analysis about the Iowa men’s tennis team.


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