Iowa's doubles team returns to the top

April 12, 2007

With consistency comes success. Juniors Bart van Monsjou and J.P. Ritchie have finally been learning that lesson this season. After competing in doubles, together, for much of their first two seasons, the two have gained enough confidence in each other to go 9-4 on the court.

Last season, the two took over as Iowa’s top doubles team, at the end of the year, and finished with a 2-2 record.

“They really got exposed to guys they weren’t really ready for, in terms of development. But, they at least got a sense of what they had to improve on to compete against those guys,” said Head Coach Steve Houghton.

The wins gave the two confidence heading into this season. After getting wins in the Big Ten as sophomores, they knew they could do better as juniors.

“We knew what to expect coming into our junior year and that helped a lot,” said van Monsjou. “Now we go into every match knowing we can win.’

That confidence carried over into the fall season, this year, as the two paired up to win the doubles title at the Louisville Invitational. The title gave them confidence heading into the spring. They gained more confidence in themselves during singles competition.

“My freshman and sophomore year I struggled in the fall. To start off the fall by having a solid tournament, made me happy,” said Ritchie. “It was good to win some matches early in the season and gain some confidence.”

The duo started off 2007 racking up wins on their way to being ranked 28th in the country. The two owe their success to getting used to one another’s playing styles over the past two years.

“It meant a lot [being ranked],” said van Monsjou. “It showed how far we’ve come and that we’re having a good season.”

Since the spring trip to California, though, the two have run into difficulties. Van Monsjou played out the trip, but the following week realized he couldn’t compete. He wasn’t able to play the way he wanted. He couldn’t serve the way he liked and he had trouble on returns.

The problem was an injured chest muscle that hindered his movement. After trying to compete with the injury, it began to get worse. Coach Houghton knew he needed to take him off the court to heal.

The duo’s losses came primarily while he was trying to compete injured. At the #1 doubles spot, there is a very small margin of error and the injury was too much for the duo to overcome.

Van Monsjou has recently returned to the lineup hoping to build on the success that he and Ritchie had during the first half the season.

“They’ll have opportunities to get back into the rankings,” said Houghton. “I think they’re quite capable.”

Written by Josh Mitchell: sports information student assistant

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