Iowa men’s tennis seniors looking to take advantage of second chance

After the 2020 season ended abruptly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the men’s tennis team will return its entire roster for 2021.


Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa’s Joe Tyler prepares to serve during a men’s tennis match between Iowa and Creighton at the HTRC on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020. The Hawkeyes defeated the Blue Jays, 5-2.

Chris Werner, Sports Reporter

On March 8, when Will Davies defeated Cornell’s Lev Kazakov in a decisive third set to ultimately lift Iowa past the 16th-ranked Big Red, everything was looking bright for the Hawkeye men’s tennis team. The victory vaulted Iowa from 28th nationally to 20th — the team’s highest ranking ever.

Then, everything changed.

The sports world began grinding to a screeching halt March 12. In the span of a few hours, the NBA season had been postponed and other major sports quickly followed suit. The NCAA canceled all winter and spring sport championships. The Big Ten canceled all conference and non-conference games through the end of the academic year.

The men’s tennis season was over. The hottest start in program history was cut short.

“We experienced such a high having beaten Cornell, especially in the way we did beat them,” Davies said. “Obviously, me clinching to win 4-3 was one of my best collegiate tennis wins. Then to find out a couple of days later that the season had been canceled, and realistically I was looking at going home for the rest of the semester in the UK. You go from such a high to then such, such a big low.”

A little over two weeks later, on March 30, the NCAA announced that schools could provide spring-sport student-athletes an additional season of competition and an extended eligibility period.

Both seniors on the roster — Kareem Allaf and Jason Kerst — decided to utilize the extra year.

The result: Everyone on the 2019-20 roster will return to the court next season for the Hawkeyes, along with a recruiting class of three new freshmen.

“I’m glad that the seniors like Jason [Kerst] and Kareem [Allaf] are going to get an extra year to come back finish this off,” head coach Ross Wilson said. “Also, the younger guys to be able to continue the success of the program and to help sustain it for years to come.”

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Combined, Allaf and Kerst have 124 career singles-match wins — with 85 coming from Allaf, second-most in program history. Allaf also has 61 doubles victories, the schools eighth-best mark. His combined singles and doubles win-total of 146 also ranks second in the Hawkeye record books.

Six of Iowa’s rosters sports will now be filled with seniors with Allaf and Kerst returning. The experience will bring a maturity to the team, as well as some high expectations.

The team shouldn’t have any trouble finding its groove again next spring.

“Everyone was just so close-knit,” Kerst said. “It was a really cool brotherhood that we had this year, and so that made it, honestly, extra disappointing when everything got canceled and kind of tossed aside. But to think that it could be a similar, if not the exact same group next year is super encouraging.

“Not only was our team dynamic great but our on-court results were awesome this year. We’re excited to get back at it next year, continue that awesome culture, and hoping that translates into some more victories on the court.”

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