Men’s tennis hopes to bounce back


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In practice Tuesday, assistant coach Steve Nash had the Iowa men’s tennis players running.

Their feet stop just long enough to transition into a grueling push-up stance they must hold.

It’s a battle. Veins are bulging and sweat is dripping, and the players know the first one to drop runs 12 laps. Second runs 11, and continues until no player’s arms can muster his own weight.

The Hawkeyes are training for their comeback.

Iowa will play No. 12 Illinois today at 1:30 p.m. and Indiana at noon on April 5 at the Hawkeye Tennis & Recreation Complex.

On the road last weekend, Iowa was swept by No. 5 Ohio State, 7-0, and then defeated by Penn State in a close 4-3 dual. The Buckeyes held the Hawkeyes to winning only two sets in singles competition, something the Hawkeyes are working to make sure doesn’t happen again this weekend.

“Ohio State is No. 5 in the country now, and [the Buckeyes] really have a legitimate chance to win the NCAA title,” Iowa head coach Steve Houghton said. “It is not a bad loss to them, but I guess I was a little disappointed with just how dominated they were in scores individually.”

Iowa demonstrated impressive talent in doubles despite losing the doubles point in both matches. Injury shifted the lineup for the Hawkeyes, bringing in junior Patrick Dwyer to replace senior Greg Holm in No. 6 singles, and Reinoud Haal in No. 2 doubles.

Holm and Dwyer managed to hang in with the Buckeyes’ Steven Moneke and Balazs Novak, but ultimately fell, 8-7.

“We showed them that we had the doubles skills to hang in with the any team in the nation,” Dwyer said. “If you can hang in there with Ohio State, you are right there with anybody.”

Houghton shares in Dwyer’s attitude. In his 28th season as Iowa’s head coach, Houghton is an expert on the Big Ten tennis and recognize the challenge the Fighting Illini and the Hoosiers will pose.

“Illinois is probably a notch below Ohio State but not by much,” Houghton said. “They’ve played [Ohio State] very evenly the last couple years. They are a top-10-type team.”

Iowa is 21-52 all-time against Illinois and 16-45 versus Indiana. Last year, Iowa defeated Indiana 4-3 at home in the conference opener. Indiana has improved and Houghton has noticed.

“Indiana has gotten off to a very good start; I believe it is 3-0 in the Big Ten,” he said. “We had a close, close match last year with [the Hoosiers], beat them here. They are definitely good, a top-40-type team.”

Nash and Houghton are preparing the Hawkeyes to beat any team in the dominant Big Ten conference.

“It’s Big Ten season — you know every match is going to be tough no matter what, no matter who you’re playing,” Dwyer said, covered in the work of his labor, sweat. “We’re just going into it preparing, working hard — obviously — and trying to take advantage of being home.”

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