Noel to return to Iowa for her second season of college tennis

Sophomore women’s tennis player Alexa Noel is the program’s first All-American and 2021 Big Ten Player of the Year.


Jerod Ringwald

Iowa’s Alexa Noel goes low to return a ball during a women’s tennis meet at the Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Complex on Thursday, Feb. 26, 2021. The Hawkeyes defeated the Hoosiers with a score of 4-3.

Will Fineman, Sports Reporter

Alexa Noel had no plans to play college tennis two years ago.

After graduating from high school in 2020, Noel was set to start her professional career before COVID-19 changed her plans. Now, she is slated to push her professional tennis debut another year to return to Iowa for her sophomore season.

The Hawkeye women’s tennis team had a record-breaking season in 2020-21 with 12 Big Ten conference wins. In 2021-22, Iowa will lose Elise van Heuvelen Treadwell —the program’s all-time leader in singles and doubles wins.

But after months of speculation, Iowa’s No. 1 player decided she had another year of collegiate tennis to play.

“I kind of feel like I have some unfinished business,” Noel said. “I feel like I have more to do and more to give to the team.”

Noel’s career path at Iowa had been a question mark since the day she stepped on campus.

The former International Tennis Federation No. 4 junior player committed to play at Iowa in June 2020 once the pandemic shut down professional events around the world.

“I had been thinking about it since I started my freshman year,” Noel said. “From the very beginning I didn’t think I would come back, so it was just kind of an ongoing thing, and I tried to tune it out during the season.”

Noel said it was hard for her to think about what her plans were for the next year while simultaneously preparing to go out and perform for the Hawkeyes.

“I think I knew after the team season ended,” Noel said. “I really did delay all of it until the very last minute… but it was just something that I knew I had more left in the tank.”

In her first season as a Hawkeye, the Summit, New Jersey, native received more accolades than most college tennis players receive in their entire career.

After winning 24 of her 25 matches during her freshman campaign, Noel was named Big Ten Player and Freshman of the Year, and the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Central Region  Rookie of the Year.

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Noel is the first player in program history to receive conference Player of the Year honors and receive an All-American honor.

Noel’s performance during the regular season and the Big Ten tournament earned her the automatic Big Ten qualifier for the NCAA singles tournament.

The Hawkeye freshman won her first tournament match 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 over North Carolina State’s Alana Smith, and won the first set of her second-round match against Louisiana State University’s Paris Corley before she sprained her ankle in the second set.

Noel lost the next two sets and was eliminated from the tournament following her ankle injury.

“I sprained it and played on it for two hours after, which I don’t know if that was the smart thing in the long run, but I did it and I wanted to do it for myself,” Noel said. “The next morning [head coach Sasha Schmid] and my mom had to carry me down because I couldn’t walk. I actually found out that it’s fractured.”

But Noel said the second-round exit in her first NCAA singles tournament appearance did not have an impact on her decision to return for a second collegiate season.

“I take a lot of pride in being a good team player and someone who always wants the Hawks and Iowa women’s tennis to do well,” Noel said. “I think that we can do better, and I really believe there were a couple of opportunities that we missed and didn’t meet our mark. I feel that coming into next year it’s not myself but it’s team redemption.”

With new NCAA rules allowing athletes to profit off of their name, image, and likeness passed in June, Noel feels there is less of a rush than before to pursue a professional career.

“I know that this doesn’t squander my pro career because NIL is the main topic of college athletics right now,” Noel said. “It’s amazing that college athletes are able to now make money and endorsements and create partnerships off of their own brand. Obviously, people have to like me… so I will try to do everything on the court to make the off-court as easy as possible.”