Hawkeye tennis teams stumble at ITA Kickoff

Iowa’s men’s and women’s tennis teams lost to ITA top 25 teams in their first matches of the year.


Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa head coach Sasha Schmid talks to her team during a women’s tennis match between Iowa and Colorado at the HTRC on Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020.

Will Fineman, Sports Reporter

Iowa’s tennis teams had a rough start to their 2021 campaigns as both the men’s and women’s teams dropped their first two matches of the season in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s kickoff event.

The men’s team faced off against a No. 22 University of Virginia team on Friday that had two players ranked inside the ITA top 125 rankings. The Hawkeyes fell, 4-0, with three matches going unfinished.

The No. 17 doubles pair in the country — composed of Oliver Okonkwo and Will Davies — won its match, 6-3. That win was not good enough for Iowa to grab the doubles point as Kareem Allaf and Nikita Snezhko lost, 6-4, and Matt Clegg and Joe Tyler were defeated, 6-2.

In singles play, Tyler grabbed one game in his straight-set loss, and Okonkwo was taken down by No. 106 Jeffrey Von Der Schulenburg in two sets. Virginia’s win was capped off with a 6-4, 6-1, win for Chris Roadesch over Iowa’s Nikita Snezhko.

The Hawkeyes were then downed by Middle Tennessee State the following day in shutout fashion. Iowa went down early with two losses in doubles as the same pairs that lost to the Cavaliers came up short again against the Blue Raiders.

Rudra Dixit made his collegiate debut and Matt Clegg was also added into the singles lineup on Saturday. Clegg, Snehzko, and Jason Kerst all lost in straight sets to give the Blue Raiders the win.

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The women’s tennis team traveled to Austin, Texas, on Saturday to take on No. 3 Texas and No. 20 Arizona State. In their first match since March of 2020, the Hawkeyes were defeated by the Longhorns, 4-0.

Like the men’s team, the women couldn’t grab the early doubles point as the 48th-ranked Texas doubles pair of Anna Turati and Fernanda Labrana held Elise van Heuvelen Treadwell and Michelle Bacalla scoreless. Danielle Bauers and Samantha Gillas lost in the No. 3 doubles spot, 6-1.

No. 97 ranked Alexa Noel and Vipasha Mehra made their college debuts in singles play against two top 100 players. Mehra came up short, as she only won one game in her match, and straight-set losses from Bacalla and Gillas gave Texas the win.

“It was great to have [Noel and Mehra] out there because I think you underestimate the importance of a fall season sometimes and how much is learned,” head coach Sasha Schmid said. “They are both very experienced players all around the world, but just the whole feel of a college match and some of our format, it was their first time going through that.”

Noel and Samantha Mannix fell in their doubles match the next day against the No. 50 ranked doubles pair of Ilze Hattingh and Lauryn John-Baptiste from Arizona State, 6-4. Bauers and Gillas lost their match, 6-2, giving No. 20 Arizona State an early lead going into singles play.

Arizona State picked up three more points off a 6-0, 6-3 win over Gillas, a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Mannix and a 6-0, 6-2 win over Bacalla to finish off a shutout win against the Hawkeyes.

“It is always tough to lose, and we have high expectations this season, so I think that part of it is always hard,” Schmid said. “It is balanced out by the fact that we were so grateful to get this opportunity, and we definitely needed it because it is so hard to go 10 months without competing no matter how efficient you feel you are at practice.”