Iowa women’s tennis ends season with loss to No. 48 Illinois in Big Ten Tournament

Despite a three-point comeback, the Hawkeyes fell to the Illini, 4-3, at the Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Complex.


Gabby Drees

Iowa’s Samantha Gillas reacts after losing a match in the second round of the Big Ten Women’s Tennis Tournament at the Hawkeye Tennis & Recreation Building in Iowa City on Thursday, April 28. 2022. Illinois defeated Iowa, 4-3.

Chris Werner, Sports Reporter

The Iowa women’s tennis team fell to No. 48 Illinois. 4-3, in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday night in Iowa City, effectively ending the Hawkeyes’ season.

“They fought really hard,” head coach Sasha Schmid told The Daily Iowan. “I was really proud of them. I thought they fought really hard and you know, it’s been a competitive season with so many competitive matches and then it just comes down to a few points.”

Iowa lost the doubles point and the first two singles matches to fall behind, 3-0, at the Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Complex.

The Illini earned identical 6-4 victories in the first two doubles matches to secure the first point of the night. Iowa’s No. 1 doubles pair of seniors Samantha Mannix and Samantha Gillas were leading their match, 5-4, when it was called. 

But the Hawkeyes roared back to tie the match with three consecutive singles victories.

First, sophomore Vipasha Mehra won her match in straight sets, 7-5, 6-1, and then senior Michelle Bacalla defeated her opponent in a three-set battle, 6-2, 1-6, 6-1.

As Iowa closed the gap to 3-2, only Mannix and Gillas remained on the court for Iowa, both knotted in three-setters. 

After losing the first set in a tie-breaker, Mannix earned back-to-back 6-4 set wins to even the overall score to three points apiece. 

Meanwhile, Gillas was struggling in her third set on court 5. Gillas took the first set against Illinois freshman Kasia Treiber in a tie-breaker, dropped the second set, 7-5, and found herself down, 5-1, in the third.

However, the senior from New Braunfels, Texas, wasn’t done quite yet. She used a break, a hold of serve, and a few rare fist pumps to rally back to 5-3.

But Trieber proved too tough for Gillas, defeating the Hawkeyes’ No. 5 player, 6-3, in the final set.

Schmid believes her young team can use the experience to help them win tough matches in the future. The Hawkeyes are returning five players for 2022-23.

“I think that this conference tournament is a memory that they can build on,” Schmid said. “That they can work to put themselves in these positions and pull through matches that are really hard-fought like that. These are the matches that mean the most when you can get to four points.”

Even though her team finished the year with a 7-17 overall record, Schmid said that she’s optimistic about next year. The Hawkeyes went .500 over their final six matches of the season, including the conference tournament. 

“I think that it was, overall, a season of learning and growing, and I think the team really came together late in the season,” Schmid said. “I think, hopefully, we can build on that and have a good summer and kind of reload and get ready for next season. It’s always hard when the season ends, it’s hard for everybody. But you know, I think that they played with a lot of heart and fight today and that’s all I can ask of them.”