Iowa women’s tennis player Samantha Mannix champions competitiveness

The fifth-year senior earned All-Big Ten honors this year and will leave an indelible mark on the Hawkeyes’ mindset.


Cody Blissett

Iowa’s Samantha Mannix celebrates during a tennis meet at the Hawkeye Tennis and Recreational Complex in Iowa City on Friday, April 14, 2023. Mannix won her doubles match with Vipasha Merah.

Matt McGowan, Sports Reporter

Iowa women’s tennis player Samantha Mannix hates to lose. Growing up in Elkhorn, Nebraska, Mannix has been on the court since she was 8 years old, honing her skills at Woods Tennis Center.

Throughout her career, which spanned from the Cornhusker State to the Hawkeye State, the fifth-year senior has defined herself by her competitiveness.

“I tried to bring [competitiveness] into practice, into matches, every single day,” Mannix said. “That’s the one thing I always hope that my teammates can do. To me, winning and losing is somewhat out of your control, but being competitive is always something that you are capable of.”

For 12 of the first 15 matches of the 2023 season, Mannix played in the No. 2 singles spot, going 7-2 with three unfinished matches. Then, after vanquishing Indiana’s Saby Nihalani in three sets on April 2 for her third consecutive win, Mannix was promoted to the top spot and stayed there for the rest of the season.

But Mannix struggled in the No. 1 position at first, dropping her first two matches in straight sets against Penn State and Ohio State then falling to her Rutgers counterpart in a three-set heartbreaker.

In the final home match of her career, she got her first win of the season at the No. 1 spot, putting away Maryland’s Marta Perez Mur in a three-set triumph.

Mannix’s childhood coach at Woods Tennis Center, Talor Wain, was in attendance up on the balcony at Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Center. Mannix said Wain taught her to be an analytical player.

“Growing up, I always focused on technique. And, I think, coming into college I had to strike the balance between technique and strategy,” Mannix said.

During her weekly individual practices, Mannix usually spoke with Iowa assistant coach Elise van Heuvelen Treadwell about how she could adjust based on her previous match.

During an April 18 practice, Mannix rehashed from memory the film of her match against the Scarlet Knights’ Jackeline Lopez four days earlier, describing aloud how her own backhand wasn’t flat enough and was “too spinny.”

When she’s on the court during a match, Mannix said the technique she emphasizes during the week is pushed to the back of her mind. Instead, she focuses on playing her own game and being a good teammate, saying that if her fellow Hawkeyes can hear her on the other side of the court, then she’s doing a good job.

Arriving in Iowa City for her freshman season in 2018, Mannix said the individual nature of tennis made adjusting to a team environment difficult. Over time, she became someone who prioritized the team’s success over her own.

“I think she set the standard with how to compete and how to fight even when you don’t feel great about your game or things aren’t going well,” Iowa head coach Sasha Schmid said.

Hawkeye freshman Daianne Hayashida said Mannix is a big sister of sorts. Mannix helped the Lima, Peru, native adjust to the collegiate tennis scene and was there for her when she struggled in practice.

Mannix tied a team high with 10 singles victories this season and earned All-Big Ten honors for the first time in her career. She also picked up two wins against nationally ranked opponents as the Hawkeyes finished fifth in its conference and advanced to the second round of the Big Ten Championships.

“I think she’s been instrumental in us creating a culture of competitiveness, high expectations, and just really hard-working,” Schmid said. “So, you know, when you’ve got somebody who lives that every day, that is really important for all the other team members to see.”