Iowa women’s tennis scrapes past Michigan State in first round of Big Ten Tournament

The Hawkeyes used two tie-breaking doubles victories and three come-from-behind singles wins to defeat the Spartans, 4-3.


Isabella Cervantes

Iowa women’s tennis head coach Sasha Schmid watches a match during the first round of the Big Ten Championships at the Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Complex on Wednesday, April 27, 2022. Iowa defeated Michigan State, 4-3, to advance to the second round of the championships on Thursday.

Chris Werner, Sports Reporter

The 12th-seeded Iowa women’s tennis team took down 13th-seeded Michigan State, 4-3, on Wednesday afternoon to advance to the second round of the Big Ten Tournament.

The Hawkeyes secured the doubles point at the Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Center with two tie-breaking victories on courts 1 and 3.

The Iowa team of seniors Samantha Mannix and Samantha Gillas beat Michigan State’s Maja Pietrowicz and Mary Lewis. On the No. 3 court, the Hawkeyes’ Barbora Pokorna-Michelle Bacalla duo defeated Dagmar Zdrubecka and Charlotte Gisclon to clinch the point for the Hawkeyes. 

The doubles point proved pivotal as the Hawkeyes and Spartans split the six singles matches. 

“The doubles point was obviously huge,” Mannix told The Daily Iowan after the victory. “We won 4-3, with the doubles point. So, if we hadn’t gotten the doubles point, we would have lost, 3-4. I think we all have experienced a season where we haven’t won very many doubles points so we know how important it is.

“It felt really good to get that on the board and then not feel as much pressure to get four singles matches,” Mannix added. “We’ve lost a lot of close doubles points. So, it was nice to flip a couple and win, 7-6, on two courts.”

The Hawkeyes won their singles matches on courts 2, 3, and 6 to get past the Spartans.

Michigan State won the first two singles matches to pull ahead, 2-1, before Pokorna and Bacalla reeled off two straight come-from-behind, three-set wins at the No. 2 and No. 6 spot, respectively.

Pokorna and Bacalla were each down in the deciding set. Pokorna trailed, 5-2, while Bacalla was behind, 4-3, but both rallied back. 

After a Michigan State victory on court 1, Mannix secured the winning singles point with a 6-7, 7-5, 6-4, victory on court 3. 

“The three singles that we won, we lost all of those first sets,” head coach Sasha Schmid said. “So, to be able to turn those matches this huge. Credit to Michigan State for fighting really, really hard. I mean, Pokorna was down, 5-2, in the third, just an incredible fight. Sam was down, 4-3. That’s, that’s a lot of heart. I’m really proud of them. They’ve worked really hard all season and they deserve a memory.”

Bacalla, one of the three seniors on the six-person roster, told the DI that hosting the Big Ten Championships in Iowa City was unlike anything she experienced before. 

“I mean, honestly, you can’t recreate this environment,” Bacalla said. “You know, as a senior, this is my last year, and hosting Big Ten’s is a whole different ball game. Just to the tournament as a whole is just a great opportunity for all teams to get after a big title, and to see all my teammates coming back from some sort of deficit, myself included, it’s just inspiring to know that no matter what happened throughout the season, we’re still going to fight no matter what.”

Iowa will take on fifth-seeded Illinois in the second round of the Big Ten Championships on Thursday. Although the Illini are No. 48 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings, Bacalla and the Hawkeyes are staying true to the no-quit mindset.

“Personally, I don’t care about seeds, or whoever’s on the other side of the court,” Bacalla said. “I just really want to play and get after it for my team.”

Iowa’s second-round match is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. at the Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Center and can be streamed on BTN+.

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