March 2014

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47 C oming off a disappointing end to the 2013 season, it was important for the Iowa men's tennis team to start strong in 2014. e Hawkeyes have done just that. Iowa kicked the season off by winning its first five matches en route to the team's first 5-0 start since 2005. e Hawkeyes didn't drop an individual match until their fourth match, a 5-2 victory over Northern Illinois. "It's been important for the guys to come out and win these nonconference matches and build their confidence," said UI assistant coach Ross Wilson. "e only way to get better is to win matches and put consecutive wins together. If we do that, we will have the confidence against some of these better teams and know we can go out and compete against them." e Hawkeyes put an exclamation point on their hot start by knocking off No. 39 Minnesota on Feb. 16. In a four-hour thriller, Iowa edged the Gophers, 4-3, to secure its first win against a Big Ten foe since 2011 when the Hawkeyes beat No. 60 Purdue. "at was a big win for us. It was big for a lot of guys who have been here and haven't had much success in the Big Ten the past two years," said Wilson. "It helps prove that what we are doing on the courts is working, but we have to keep going. We are looking to win multiple matches in confer- ence and to be competitive." Iowa had fallen to Minnesota the past 15 times, but the Hawkeyes turned the tables this year be- hind a strong effort from a motivated senior class. Seniors Jonas Dierckx and Juan Estenssoro secured the doubles point for Iowa in the tiebreaker, while seniors Michael Swank and Estenssoro won con- secutive matches in singles play to secure Iowa's 4-3 upset victory. e success has come on the back of a balanced squad, with a number of players contributing sin- gles victories. Sophomore Dominic Patrick leads the way in singles with an unbeaten record at No. 5 singles, but the team has been paced by dominant doubles play. In every one of Iowa's matches this season, the Hawkeyes have opened by taking the doubles point. Dierckx and Estenssoro have been perfect this spring, posting an undefeated record at the No. 2 doubles spot, while fellow senior Joey White is perfect this spring at the No. 3 spot, hav- ing been paired with both freshman Nils Hall- estrand and junior Matt Hagan. "We knew starting this season that we had a lot of big guys. Guys with big serves, good volleys and great forehands," said Wilson. "It is all about finding the right combination of guys that are comfortable together and able to handle the pres- sure. We have had some tight matches and a few tiebreakers, and have won them all so far." Iowa's efforts have not gone unnoticed. In the ITA rankings released on Feb. 25, the Hawkeyes entered the rankings at No. 55. It is the first time Iowa has been ranked since the final week of the 2011 season when the Hawkeyes were 69th. e team knows that the road gets much tougher once Big Ten play resumes, but if the start of the season is any indication of things to come, the Hawkeyes are ready. Starting Strong By Dan Wallace

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