Doubles play helps Hawkeye tennis prevail

Iowa tennis swept its competition (3-0) by securing the doubles point in every match.


Katie Goodale

Joe Tyler hits the ball during men’s tennis against the University of Nebraska Omaha at the Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Complex on Feb. 15, 2019. The hawkeyes defeated Omaha 5-2. Tyler lost his single’s match against Omaha’s Davis Lawley.

Cody Smith, Sports Reporter

Both Iowa tennis teams continued their hot starts to the spring season this past weekend.

The men’s team finished its nine-game home stand to begin the season with two wins against Missouri-KC and Omaha on Feb. 15.

The Hawkeyes barely prevailed against the Kangaroos, 4-3, in the first match. All eyes were on junior Kareem Allaf as the two squads were knotted up 3-3 when he came back to secure Iowa’s third-dual victory in a row after defeating Tom Kruse (6-2, 3-6, 6-2) at the No. 1 position.

In doubles, Iowa secured the doubles point to give itself an early advantage. Will Davies and Oliver Okonkwo have improved to 8-1 as a pair, thanks to the help of Davies’ tough serve. The sophomore smashed 4 aces on his first doubles match of the day.

Additionally, freshman Nikita Snezhko saw his first action of the spring, winning his doubles match with partner Joe Tyler. Head coach Ross Wilson will try to keep him in the doubles lineup.

“Nikita is a guy when he came in we thought he can make a contribution to doubles,” Wilson said. “He just had to work on his game and improve. We felt like he made the necessary improvements in practice, and he showed it here today. He served great and was all over the net. He has natural doubles instincts.”

In the evening game against Omaha, the Hawkeyes set the tone by winning each of the three doubles matches.

In singles, Iowa kept things rolling by jumping out to a 4-0 lead after straight-set victories by Allaf, Davies, and Piotr Smietana.

The biggest surprise, however, was that Wilson switched things up in its second dual match of the evening by giving the No. 1 position starting nod to Jonas Larsen.

“Jonas has played well all year,” Wilson said. “He’s got the game style to be able to play at the top. He’s confident, and winning (6-3, 6-2) shows it.”

The senior ended up winning in straight sets in his first match at No. 1 in his four-year career as a Hawkeye.

“It was the time I got to play 1 here at Iowa,” Larsen said. “So it felt good to come out here with a win, really good.”

Overall, Wilson was proud of the way his team responded in the second match.

“I think in our first match our guys weren’t as focused and didn’t come out with the best energy in singles,” he said. “We kind of limped through the finish line, and it was nice to see Kareem finish it in the third set. But then, we obviously came out a lot better here against Omaha in the doubles and most of our singles matches. We took care of getting early leads and being able to stay ahead, and we finished them off pretty quickly.”

The men’s team will try to build on its success when it heads to Cornell on Feb. 24 for its first road test of the season.

The women’s team, on the other hand, won its second road match of the year in a close one over Marquette (4-3) in Milwaukee. The win puts Iowa at 7-0 to start the season.

Just like the men’s team with Allaf, everything came down to freshman Cloe Ruette with the match on the line. Tied 3-3 overall, Ruette was down 2-5 in the third set before coming back to seal the Hawkeye victory (2-6, 6-4, 7-6).

“The team showed a lot of heart today to pull off this win on the road,” head coach Sasha Schmid said in a release. “Marquette played very well, and we had to really battle to get this match. Cloe was down 2-5 in the third, and she fought and fought for the team out there. We’re really proud of Cloe, and it is just a huge moment for her as a freshman early in this season.”

Iowa will resume action Feb. 22 and 24 when it opens up Big Ten action against Northwestern on the road and Penn State at home.

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