Samantha Mannix seals first win for Iowa women’s tennis in its season opener

Iowa won their season opener against Illinois, 4-2, off solid play in doubles and wins from the top three spots in the lineup.


Katie Goodale/The Daily Iowan

Doubles pair Alexa Noel (left) and Samantha Mannix (right) sit with a coach during the Iowa women’s tennis meet v. Northwestern in the Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Complex on Sunday, Feb. 14, 2021. Northwestern defeated Iowa with a score of 6-1.

Will Fineman, Sports Reporter

After a long match that included disagreements over calls and multiple service breaks, Hawkeye junior Samantha Mannix had a match point up 5-2 in the second set.

An unforced error from Illinois’ Sasha Belayla gave Mannix the match and Iowa a 4-2 win in its season opener against Illinois Friday at the Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Complex.

“It is not always easy to close matches out, so I think we all did a great job,” senior Elise van Heuvelen Treadwell said. “Sam did awesome to close it out while we were all watching, [Michelle Bacalla] was obviously still going, but I’m just super happy [with how we played].”

Van Heuvelen Treadwell faced off against the only ranked singles opponent on Illinois’ roster, No. 107 Asuka Kawai, and defeated her in straight sets.

The fifth-year senior didn’t drop a game in the first set against Kawai and fended off a late comeback in the second set. Van Heuvelen Treadwell’s, 6-0, 6-3, win tied up the score after Illinois had taken two straight singles matches.

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“I got off to a pretty good start,” van Heuvelen Treadwell said. “And I just stuck with the game plan all the way through. It was just a couple of deuce points that I lost and that’s all it is, and it’s just not making a big deal out of that because I was still up throughout the second set, and I was never down.”

Iowa head coach Sasha Schmid has always harped on the importance of winning the doubles point, and her team came through with Iowa’s top two doubles pairs taking both of their matches.

Both the No. 1 pair of Mannix and Alexa Noel and the doubles team of van Heuvelen Treadwell and Samantha Gillas continued their success from the preseason with a win of 6-2.

“I think doubles is key in any college tennis match,” Schmid said. “A lot of our practices mid-week are devoted to doubles so that we can make sure we are building confidence and being able to start the match with a doubles point.”

Two freshmen got the call from Schmid to make their conference play debuts. No. 97 Noel played in the No. 1 spot, and Vipasha Mehra struggled in her first match at the No. 6 spot.

After a rough start in the first set where she was only able to grab one game, Mehra battled back late in the second to get within two games. It wasn’t enough, as Illinois’ Josie Frazier was able to close out the, 6-1, 6-3, win.

“Mehra is fully capable of competing at this level,” Schmid said. “We have seen that in a lot of matches where she goes down early and then comes back at the end, but it is just too late.”

Noel came to Iowa City as one of the top recruits in the nation and went undefeated in the preseason.

The Summit, New Jersey, native did not disappoint in her first conference match, as she completely shut down Emilee Duong, 6-2, 6-0.

“I felt pretty comfortable. Of course, I was nervous going into the match, but I think it would be a problem if I wasn’t,” Noel said. “I was just happy and kind of embracing the pressure and the nerves out there.”

Gillas lost her match in straight sets, 6-3, 6-1, and Bacalla’s match went unfinished.

“We knew we were going to have a great opponent tonight against Illinois, and it’s a great way to start the season with a solid win,” Schmid said.

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