Tough tests lie ahead for Iowa men’s and women’s tennis

The Hawkeye men will take on two top-30 programs this weekend while the women’s team faces No. 10 Ohio State at home.


Grace Smith

Iowa’s Joe Tyler hits the ball at the Iowa Men’s tennis meet v. Indiana in the Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Complex on Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. Iowa defeated Indiana with a score of 5-2.

Will Fineman, Sports Reporter

A challenging weekend lies ahead for both Iowa’s men’s and women’s tennis teams. In total, the two squads will face three ranked opponents.

The men’s team will travel to Illinois to take on the ninth-ranked Fighting Illini and No. 29 Northwestern, while the women will face off against Penn State and No. 10 Ohio State at home.

“Those are two matches that we are really looking forward to playing,” Iowa men’s tennis head coach Ross Wilson said. “We know if we want to make the NCAA tournament that [we have] to go on the road and beat Illinois … and Northwestern who is much-improved.”

So far, the Hawkeye men have not suffered a loss in conference play, earning them a No. 32 ranking in the ITA top 50.

Iowa is led by the nation’s 39th-ranked tennis player, Kareem Allaf, who is undefeated this season.

Juniors Joe Tyler and Will Davies, and sophomore Oliver Okonkwo are all unbeaten through the first three matches of conference play too.

This weekend, the Hawkeye men will be put to the test as the Fighting Illini’s lineup features four ITA top 125 players.

In their 16th year under head coach Brad Dancer, the Fighting Illini have already defeated No. 4 Virginia and former No. 1 USC.

“[Illinois] is No. 6 in the country and has been a staple of the top two teams in the Big Ten over the past 20 years,” Wilson said. “They just had a nice run at the national indoors and our guys know that we have to go in there and sneak out a win against a tough team.”

Unlike Illinois, Northwestern has struggled this season — boasting 3-3 overall and 2-2 conference records.

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The Wildcats are 1-3 against ranked opponents this season, with a lone win over No. 31 Duke.

No. 58 Dominik Stary headlines the Wildcats’ singles lineup with a 2-3 record and will likely face Allaf on Sunday.

The No. 1 doubles court will feature a ranked matchup between Iowa’s seventh-ranked Oknokwo-Davies pair and Northwestern’s No. 57 Simen Bratholm-Nick Brookes duo.

“We need to get better very quickly,” Allaf said. “It’s just a number to their name. We know who we are playing, and I think we have a very good chance to come out undefeated next weekend.”

The Iowa women’s team will take on a 5-2 Penn State squad in its first matchup of the weekend.

No. 97 Alexa Noel is undefeated so far this season, boasting 12 wins and an 8-3 doubles record with Samantha Mannix.

Senior Elise van Heuvelen Treadwell has won her last four matches and is tied for sixth in program history in career singles wins. She is scheduled to play against freshman Sofiya Chekhlystova, who is on a five-match win streak for the Nittany Lions.

Iowa leads the all-time series 26-8, but the Nittany Lions have won the last two matchups between the programs.

“Any match in the Big Ten is a competitive match,” head coach Sasha Schmid said. “It’s great that we are winning, but I want to continue getting better with every match.”

Iowa will end the weekend against an ITA top 10 program in Ohio State.

The Hawkeyes have not beaten Ohio State since 2013.

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