The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Hawkeye men’s tennis faces big weekend

The No. 54 Hawkeye men’s tennis team (9-4) faces its most pivotal set of matches to this point in the year this weekend as they take on Michigan (3-10) at 6 p.m. today and Michigan State (10-9) at 11 a.m. March 29.

Sitting at 1-1 in the Big Ten, the set of matches over the weekend can either propel the team into the upper tier of the conference or force the Hawkeyes into playing catch-up.

That, along with Iowa’s playing two of its six Big Ten home matches this weekend, amplifies the importance.

“We said right before spring break that the next three and a half weeks were key in order to make the NCAA Tournament,” interim head coach Ross Wilson said. “This weekend is a huge part of that.”

The Hawkeyes certainly have all the parts to get to the NCAA Tournament, with a solid core of players who complement the team’s star, senior Matt Hagan.

“Frankly, the last few years, Iowa has been near the bottom of the Big Ten,” freshman Jake Jacoby said. “But this year is different. We already beat Wisconsin, a team we lost to last year.”

The ever-tough Big Ten stands in Iowa’s way of an NCAA berth, and first up on the weekend’s docket are the Wolverines.

“[The Wolverines] are really good, they’re talented,” Wilson said. “They’re a team with a lot of talented guys, and if they would have pulled out a couple wins early, they might be ranked.”

The Wolverines’ 3-10 record so far is deceiving. They have played against six ranked teams and managed to notch a win against then-No. 22 Memphis.

All-time, the record between the schools is 49-8 in favor of Michigan, and the Hawkeyes will be after just the ninth win over the Wolverines in the last 100 years.

If Iowa is able to pull out a win, it very well could come from a doubles point, something both Wilson and Jacoby pointed to as being a vital part of the meet.

“This weekend is all about doubles,” Wilson said. “It’s going to dictate how we play out in singles. Grabbing that momentum is always a key.”

Michigan State will bring its own set of challenges to the Hawkeyes. The Spartans have a roster loaded with upperclassmen that have experience playing in the NCAA Tournament.

Michigan State has picked up wins against then-No. 55 Elon and No. 50 Penn State.

“[Michigan State] is a solid team 1 through 6,” Hagan said. “They play with a lot of fire and energy, and we’re going to have to compete hard.”

With a quick turnaround between matches, the Hawkeyes took extra precautions during the week to avoid fatigue.

Jacoby said the team’s conditioning was cut back from twice to once this week, and the break on Saturday would be used to mentally prepare for Michigan State.

“We just wanted to keep our bodies fresh during the week,” Jacoby said. “We may hit for about 30 minutes on Saturday, get an ice bath in, but other than that, we want to relax on that day off.”

The next three days can either make or break the Hawkeyes season. Two wins against Big Ten opponents to boost their conference record to 3-1 would make for a great weekend.

However, Iowa cannot afford to lose and fall behind the blue bloods at the top of the conference.

“We play in one of the toughest conferences in the nation,” Wilson said. “We need to take care of home court this weekend and put our name toward the top.”

Iowa’s weekend matches

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