February 2021

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41 T he 23rd ranked University of Iowa men's tennis team will open its 2021 season in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Kickoff Event on Jan. 22-23 in Columbus, Ohio. Due to the pandemic, this year's event is limited to the top 28 teams in the country. Iowa features a veteran squad with seven upperclassmen and three freshmen and will make its third appearance in four seasons in the premier event. e Hawkeyes have been paired against No. 24 Texas Tech, a team Iowa has faced each of the past four seasons. e first time Iowa and Texas Tech competed was in the 2017 Kickoff Event in Lubbock, Texas, which saw the Hawkeyes edge the Red Raiders, 4-3. Mellecker Family Head Men's Tennis Coach Ross Wilson said that this series has developed into a rivalry. "is is a match that we look forward to because our guys have a lot of respect for Texas Tech," said Wilson. "When we made our debut in this event five years ago, we had our sights on Texas Tech and wanted to make a statement." Wilson said that consistently earning an invitation to the ITA Kickoff Event has been an expectation for Iowa's program. "Each year, the goal has been to receive a higher dra pick in the event," Wilson said. "is year, we have a chance to play two teams in the top 28, which is a major opportunity and accomplishment for this program." Iowa's roster features seniors Kareem Allaf and Jason Kerst, juniors Will Davies, Joe Tyler and Morgan Lohan, redshirt sophomores Oliver Okonkwo and Nikita Snezhko and freshmen Matt Clegg (redshirt), Peter Alam and Rudra Dixit. Allaf has a chance to finish his career with the most wins in program history. It has been a difficult nine months for the student- athletes. Not only have they navigated through the coronavirus pandemic, but their 2020 season was canceled in March and it was announced in August that the program will be discontinued following the 2021 season. All things considered, Wilson believes the morale of the team heading into this season is good. "I think the guys are focused on having the best season they possibly can," said Wilson. "is season is about this group. ese guys are very close. ey have spent a lot of time together over the last couple years and have been through a lot of battles. It's more about them wanting to play hard for each other, compete for each other and win for each other." e team began official team practices Dec. 28. Wilson applauds his veteran team for how it has approached practices during the pandemic. "We have a lot of older guys who know how to practice hard, know how to bring positive energy and be competitive every day," said Wilson. "is is definitely the highest-level team, top to bottom, we have had during my tenure. You will see a lot of different combinations in our lineup throughout the season because of our depth."

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