Iowa tennis drops three out of four for second straight weekend

The women’s team lost both of its road matches, and the men’s team went 1-1 at home.


Grace Smith

Iowa’s coach, Ross Wilson, talks to player, Will Davies, as he sits in between sets during the Iowa Men’s tennis meet v. Wisconsin in the Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Complex on Friday, March. 12, 2021. The Hawkeyes defeated the Badgers 5-2.

Will Fineman, Sports Reporter

The last time Iowa men’s tennis competed against Minnesota, it was a 4-3 thriller that came down to a three-set singles win from former Hawkeye, Jonas Larson.

Saturday’s match finished with the same score and had just as much excitement, but the ball did not fall the same way that it did in 2019, as a comeback win for Minnesota’s Daniel Larson in the No. 6 spot finished off the 38th ranked Hawkeyes.

“I don’t know whether it’s the COVID-19 layoff, [Peter Alam] being a freshman, or what it is, but it is definitely something we need to figure out because we have only won one match [in the No. 6 spot] this year,” Iowa head men’s tennis coach Ross Wilson said.

Doubles has been a good indicator for which team will come out on top in the men’s matchups.

The pair of Joe Tyler/Peter Alam went 2-0 this weekend and grabbed the doubles point over Wisconsin with the help of No. 17 Oliver Okonkwo/Will Davies.

The Hawkeyes couldn’t repeat their performance on Sunday, with Okonkwo/Davies dropping a tough tiebreaker to lose the point.

“It just goes to show how important the doubles point is,” Wilson said. “Every time we win the doubles point this year, we win the match.”

No. 39 Kareem Allaf bounced back well on Saturday after his three-set loss to Wisconsin’s Gabriel Huber. The United Arab Emirates native made quick work of senior Jackson Allen with a, 6-3, 6-0, win.

“I started off pretty cold in singles,” Allaf said. “And I was struggling to make first serves. I just didn’t have that intensity on Friday.”

Juniors Joe Tyler and Will Davies both went 2-0 on the weekend, and Okonkwo and senior Jason Kerst added wins against Wisconsin as well.

Davies is now tied with Allaf for the team lead in singles wins with six.

RELATED: Hawkeye tennis teams look to bounce back this weekend

“As each match goes on, the confidence will continue to increase,” Davies said. “As long as you are winning, you develop a certain mentality as you go on.”

Heartbreaking was the theme for the women’s team this weekend.

After winning the doubles point twice, the Hawkeyes dropped two matches in two days that both came down to the final singles match.

Saturday’s match for Iowa at Illinois saw Hawkeye junior Samantha Mannix in the spotlight against Emilee Duong. After winning a tiebreaker to force a fifth set, Mannix was blown out and lost, 6-2, 6-7 (5-7), 6-1.

Sunday was freshman Vipasha Mehra’s turn to play with the dual match on the line, but she had little success against No. 8 Northwestern’s Christina Hand and lost in straight sets.

“Overall, this was a tough weekend,” Iowa head women’s tennis coach Sasha Schmid said in a release. “To be on the short side of two 4-3 losses is really tough for our team. We are going to have to be resilient and we are going to have to double down on working hard to improve going forward.

No. 97 Alexa Noel’s straight set wins on Saturday and Sunday upped the freshman’s undefeated singles streak to 15 matches.

With the 7-6, 6-2, win at Illinois, junior Samantha Gillas tallied Iowa’s first win of the season at the No. 4 spot.

“It is a tough place to be on the road and compete in a hostile environment,” Schmid said. “I feel like within a season you are going to have some highs and lows.”

With the losses to Northwestern and Minnesota, the men’s and women’s teams are still win-less against ranked opponents this season.

“If you look at our history over the last few years, it doesn’t matter which team comes into Iowa City,” Davies said. “They know that they are going to have a war for three hours. I don’t think we need to pay attention to that trend because I think as a team, we are going to be taking it match by match.”