April 18, 2008
- Big Ten Network: Free Hawkeye Video
- Big Ten Network: Programming Schedule
- 24 Hawkeyes to Watch
- 2008 Big Ten Tournament page
by Sean Neugent
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Every athlete dreams of ending their career in front of the home crowd. That dream will become reality for senior J.P. Ritchie, as the men’s tennis Big Ten Tournament comes to the Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Complex on April 24-27.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” Ritchie said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun and be really exciting. I’m hoping we can have a good tournament and go out on a strong note.”
Ritchie, who hails from Bartlesville Okla., has enjoyed his time at the University of Iowa and hopes his team can win one last time before he hangs up his racquet.
“I looked at a lot of schools and when I came here during my recruitment I loved the campus,” Ritchie said. “The people here are really nice and I liked the school, so it was a pretty easy decision.”
Ritchie currently owns a 16-15 record in singles play (at No. 2 and No. 3). He has been outstanding in doubles, teaming with fellow senior Bart van Monsjou. The duo is ranked No. 40 in the nation and has posted a 16-9 record. For his career, Ritchie has won 62 singles matches and 65 doubles bouts.
“I think he has improved from year to year,” UI head coach Steve Houghton said about Ritchie. “Ever since he has been here he has been playing a pretty high number on the team. His first year he played number four and he moved up the ladder and he has kind of been alternating between two and three this year. So he has been playing better players, more challenging matches and he has hung in there well against some of the better guys in the Big Ten. I think he has definitely improved over the time he has been here.”
The Hawkeyes, who are 11-8 overall and 3-5 in the Big Ten, now own a mental edge over Big Ten competition with plenty of home support to draw from during the league championship.
“It definitely gives you an edge playing at home no matter what,” Ritchie said. “We just have to go out there and be confident. We’re going to be used to the atmosphere, so hopefully we can take advantage of it.”
The Big Ten offers stiff competition and the Hawkeyes will look to lean on the backs of the seniors in hopes of taking home the Big Ten trophy.
“We actually have three seniors on the team and each one of them provides leadership in different ways,” Houghton said. “I think a couple things that are good about J.P. is that he is kind of a fiery-type guy when he is on the court and competes very hard and is fired up. Another thing I give him credit for is he is very resilient. He has ups and downs like anybody else, but he is always ready to play the next day or practice the next day so I think that is a good form of leadership.”
Iowa has completed its road trips for the year and has two matches left against Purdue (Saturday, April 19) and Illinois (Sunday, April 20). Two more victories would carry even more momentum going into the tournament and the Hawkeyes look to accomplish that feat.
“I don’t really have a favorite Big Ten team to play because I have played them all so many times it really doesn’t matter that much,” Ritchie said.
Leadership from Ritchie and the buzz of playing at home could give the Hawkeyes the lift they need April 24-27 when the Big Ten Tournament comes to town.
BIG TEN TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE
|Thursday, April 24|
|Match 1||9 a.m.||No. 8 vs. No. 9|
|Match 2||Noon||No. 6 vs. No. 11|
|Match 3||3 p.m.||No. 7 vs. No. 10|
|Friday, April 25|
|Match 4||10 a.m.||No. 1 vs. Match 1 winner|
|Match 5||10 a.m.||No. 4 vs. No. 5|
|Match 6||2 p.m.||No. 3 vs. Match 2 winner|
|Match 7||2 p.m.||No. 2 vs. Match 3 winner|
|Saturday, April 26|
|Match 8||10 a.m.||Match 4 winner vs. Match 5 winner|
|Match 9||2 p.m.||Match 6 winner vs. Match 7 winner|
|Sunday, April 27|
|Match 10||noon||Match 8 winner vs. Match 9 winner|
Click HERE for the Big Ten Network home page.