Iowa women’s tennis prepares to host ITA Central Regional Championships

Freshman Barbora Pokorna will make her Hawkeye debut at the championships this week.


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

The University of Iowa women’s tennis team will host the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s annual women’s central regional championship this week. Competition will begin Wednesday at the Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Complex in Iowa City and conclude Oct. 25.

Representatives from 29 different institutions will be competing in the Hawkeye-hosted event, including Iowa’s Samantha Mannix, Barbora Pokorna, Michelle Bacalla, Vipasha Mehra, and Samantha Gillas.

Hawkeye sophomore Alexa Noel will not participate in the 2021 ITA Women’s Central Regional Championship. She suffered a quadricep injury competing in the ITA All-American Championships in Charleston, South Carolina, about 10 days ago.

There is currently a timetable for Noel’s return.

“I think she’s making good progress,” Iowa head coach Sasha Schmid said. “She’s definitely had to take some time to make her recovery her No. 1 priority and make sure she takes care of her quad. She’s been really diligent about that, so I feel like she’s making progress.

“I don’t think we’re talking [about] a long-term injury, it’s just a matter of managing it,” Schmid added. “She was coming off an event where she had more workload, more volume of tennis than she’s had since April. I think it’s just going to take time for her to get healthy again.”

Filling in for Noel is Pokorna, a true freshman, and the ITA Women’s Central Regional Championships is the first event she’ll play as a Hawkeye.

Pokorna was slated to compete in the Northwestern Invitational Oct. 8-10. Ultimately, she missed the event because she was ill.

“I am a little nervous, yeah, because it’s the first time playing for the Hawkeye nation, so I want to do really well in the tournament,” Pokorna said. “But it’s really nice that we have the tournament here in Iowa City, and it’s going to take a lot of the stress away just being in a familiar environment. So, it’s really nice. I’m really excited to take on the competition and fight for the Hawkeye nation.”

The illness that kept Pokorna out of the Northwestern Invitational plagued her for nearly two weeks. Now, she’s finally feeling better — just in time for the ITA Women’s Central Regional Championships.

“I feel really good,” Pokorna said. “We’ve been working on a lot of stuff with coaches, and it’s getting better every day. So, I feel really confident with all the progress I’m making in practice. I’m back on track after being sick for two weeks, and I feel really good and can’t wait to start getting in. I have high expectations.”

This week’s ITA Women’s Central Regional Championships will also give Schmid her first chance to watch Pokorna compete in the Black and Gold. Schmid is eager to see how Pokorna will handle the pressure that collegiate tournaments apply to young tennis players.

“Obviously, in a competitive tournament, the pressure is always much greater than it is at practice,” Schmid said. “You’ve got to be able to bring your game plan to pressure and to competitive matches. That’s what challenges I’m excited to see her go through.”

The main thing Schmid wants to see from Pokorna in her Hawkeye debut this week is emotional stability.

“I think she’s really excited to take the court for the first time as a Hawkeye,” Schmid said. “I want to make sure that she kind of keeps her emotions in check, and just stays focused on really trying to play her game and stays focused on her playing goals.”

The ITA Women’s Central Regional Championships’ opening match is scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. on Wednesday.

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