February 2021

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43 U niversity of Iowa freshman Alexa Noel committed to Iowa ranked No. 7 on the ITF World Tennis Tour Junior Rankings. She grew up playing one match aer another in tournament aer tournament, winning most of them. But on Feb. 12, one of the most decorated rookies in the country opens the Big Ten Conference schedule as a member of a team. "Born ready," Noel said when asked about Iowa's first Big Ten match in 11 months. at's an encouraging response for Iowa head coach Sasha Schmid. In part because she wants her team to get a jump on the conference season, and in part because Schmid's lineup will include Noel playing at the No. 1 spot. "Usually freshmen have a learning curve in competitions as they get used to the pressure and high level of tennis in college match play," Schmid said. "But Lex is so experienced, this has been a seamless transition for her." Seamless to the tune of 6-0. at is Noel's singles record through three preseason dates. In January, the Hawkeyes tested their chops against national powers No. 3 Texas and No. 20 Arizona State. Over the course of the last two weeks, Iowa made trips to Indiana and Wisconsin for open tournaments. Noel's matches against Texas and Arizona State went unfinished, but in the six matches since, she hasn't dropped a set. "e first three weeks have been a fun beginning and eye-opening experience to what college tennis is all about," Noel said. "It has been a nice way to get acclimated to the new environment and settle into what the season will have to offer." Right now the season offers 16 conference matches, including nine at the Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Complex and seven matches on the road. e road map has been drawn, and the routine of competition is something Noel craves. "I live for pressure moments on court that have ultimately helped define who I am as a person today," Noel said. "I feel like training has purpose because the team now has a short-term goal in sight." "Alexa just shines in competitive moments, so this spring we have seen her settle into college tennis and our team, 100 percent," Schmid said. "She would choose match day over practice day every day. She just loves competing." Noel and the Hawkeyes host Illinois on Feb. 12 at the Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Center. It marks an opening day that has been a long time coming. "As we've gotten the opportunity to compete, I'm once again realizing the competitor side in me. It has been hard to simulate in practice over this 10-month span of no events," Noel said. "We are so grateful for the opportunity to compete," Schmid said. "It is wonderful to be on the court and it's not lost on us how hard the people in our athletic department have worked to see it happen. We are going to be better because of the opportunities we have today and tomorrow." FEBRUARY SCHEDULE Feb. 12 Illinois Feb. 14 Northwestern Feb. 19 at Wisconsin Feb. 21 at Minnesota Feb. 26 Indiana Feb. 28 Purdue

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