Iowa women’s tennis set for Northwestern Invitational

Four Hawkeyes will travel to Evanston, Illinois, this weekend to compete in the invite.


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.

Chase Szewc, Sports Reporter

Iowa women’s tennis is heading to Evanston, Illinois, this weekend to compete in the Northwestern Invitational, Oct. 8-10.

While fellow Hawkeye teammates Alexa Noel and Samantha Mannix are competing in Charleston, South Carolina, this week at the ITA All-American Championships, Iowa is sending four of their players to Illinois.

Seniors Michelle Bacalla and Samantha Gillas, sophomore Vipasha Mehra, and freshman Barbara Pokorna will be competing in the event for the Hawkeyes’ first team competition of the fall season.

Pokorna will be competing in her first-ever tournament in the Black and Gold. Mehra is preparing for her sophomore campaign, as she posted a 4-14 overall singles record in the spring season along with a 7-5 doubles record.

Gillas is heading into her final season as a Hawkeye. The transfer from Virginia Tech finished with a 13-10 singles record in her first season at Iowa in the spring.

Bacalla, from Skokie, Illinois, is looking forward to opening her season back in her home state.

“I have a couple friends that are on the other team,” Bacalla said. “They are not from my hometown specifically, but that I grew up playing, seeing in tournaments.”

RELATED: Iowa tennis’ Mannix, Noel ready for ITA All-American Championships

The senior had a 6-16 singles record in the 2021 spring season, rotating between the No. 4, 5, and 6 spots. Bacalla also amassed a 2-7 doubles record.

Now, Bacalla is taking her game to another level ahead of her final season as a Hawkeye.

“I’ve done a lot of mental and physical work in regard to trying to clean up my game, work on my fitness levels,” Bacalla said. “In addition to reflecting, setting goals, and talking to coaches and seeing the best plan moving forward as for my final year. Just being sure that I’m also having a lot of fun with all the competition and the practice as well.”

Despite the NCAA giving all 2020-21 student-athletes an extra year of eligibility because of COVID-19, Bacalla will not return to Hawkeye women’s tennis after the 2021-22 academic year.

“I have decided that this will be my final season, due to the fact that I am studying elementary education,” Bacalla said. “I will need to student teach, and to be engaging and playing tennis would be a very difficult situation to balance.”

Bacalla added that practice for the Hawkeyes has gone well leading up to the tournament, and Iowa feels good about its chances heading into Evanston.

“Practice has been great, just a lot of preparation for the tournament both physically and mentally,” Bacalla said. “This is going to be the first tournament of the year, I really believe that this is our first opportunity to really get after our goals and what we want to accomplish this year after the devastating loss [of missing] NCAA’s last year. We are really looking forward to getting ready to compete again and take the opportunity to put ourselves out there and continue to grow from last year.”

The Hawkeyes will wrap up Both the Northwestern Invitational and the ITA All-American Classic on Sunday.

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