Iowa women’s tennis team prepares for grueling spring season

With three duals against nationally ranked programs, the Hawkeyes are looking to improve and play meaningful matches.


Jerod Ringwald

The Iowa tennis team participates in drills during a practice for the Iowa tennis team at the Hawkeye Tennis & Recreation Complex in Iowa City on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022.

Matt McGowan, Sports Reporter

Over the month-long holiday break, the Iowa women’s tennis team spent a lot of time on social media. Having players from three different continents, communication through Instagram and Snapchat was necessary to keep the team connected.

It was also a helpful tool for motivation. 

“We have a group chat on Snapchat, just like send pictures to each other,” Iowa sophomore Barbora Pokorna said. “[Iowa fifth-year senior] Anya Lamoreaux created a team Instagram, so each of us would send their picture after their workout, like tennis or conditioning, and then we would tag another person [teammate] who would post another picture, tag another person and we would do like a chain to stay on track.”   

As one of the few sports at Iowa with seasons in the fall and spring, the tennis team is in the offseason from late November to January. During those weeks away, the team is in constant preparation for the spring when conference play begins, and championships are on the line. 

Iowa gained three new players for the 2023 season: Lamoreaux, who transferred from Utah and freshmen Daianne Hayashida and Pia Kranholdt. For head coach Sasha Schmid, who enters her seventh year at the helm, the fall season was an early opportunity to mold the foundation of the team.

“We had three new players, so it just takes a little while to get to establish those relationships,” Schmid said. “So, I think that’s just on a daily basis, a lot of communication. Traveling always helps; we get to get away, room with different people on the road, have dinners together, compete hard and cheer for each other. So, definitely those moments when we get to compete as a team really, really helped us, and you’re in such a further place in November than you were in August.” 

Along with building chemistry, the individual fall season was also a chance to gauge the strengths and weaknesses of players. Now entering the spring season, Schmid’s focus is a lot more team oriented. 

“I think the fall season is a lot of individual work, and everyone is really working on whatever their specific needs are for fitness, for strength, for competing for their tennis game,” Schmid said. “As we go into the spring, it definitely shifts to team focus because we will for the first time have a team score…The double points will be a goal for our full year. “

Taking the doubles point means the Hawkeyes will only need to win three of six singles matches for the four points required to win a dual match.

The Hawkeyes still face a difficult conference schedule this spring, with road matches against 17th-ranked Ohio State and 20th-ranked Michigan, along with a CyHawk home dual against 22nd-ranked Iowa State. 

Iowa lost to all three of those teams last season. Overall, the Hawkeyes went 7-17 with a 2-9 Big Ten record in 2022.

“I think what we’re always trying to do is have each player raise the level of opponent that they can beat,” Schmid said. “I think everybody made progress, like beating a higher level of opponent, so we just need to continue that and then continue to do that consistently. That just makes them really feeling like they’re going to stay true to a game plan and trust themselves.” 

Pokorna didn’t play much in the fall because of a left shoulder injury, but she made sure to get reps in during her three-week visit to her native Czech Republic.

“I was getting back into serving, I played a lot of practice sets to get ready for the flow of matches after not playing matches for quite some time,” Pokorna said.

Looking ahead to the spring, Schmid is excited to see Kranholdt and Hayashida compete while fully healthy after dealing with back issues and illness. She’s also looking for Iowa junior Vipashsa Mehra to continue to impress. 

“I can’t say that the freshmen had all three events where they were 100 percent healthy, but in the moments when they really felt like they were healthy physically, they did really great,” Schmid said. “I’ve been really impressed with Vipasha since the season ended last year, she’s really dedicated herself, and it’s really paid off. She’s had some of the best-quality, most-consistent matches of anyone on the team.” 

Schmid said her desire to both improve and play meaningful matches is something that should light a fire for her team during the long weeks of winter. 

“Immediately once the calendar shifts to 2023, we’re very close to matches,” Schmid said. “That is something that really keeps everybody happy with a sense of urgency, really makes everybody be accountable to their own preparation.”