24: Slamming the door on the competition

Sept. 9, 2008

Editor’s note: 24 Hawkeyes to Watch is a feature released Thursday, Aug. 7, highlighting one athlete from each of the 24 intercollegiate sports offered by the University of Iowa. More than 700 talented student-athletes are currently busy preparing for the 2008-09 athletics year at the UI. Hawkeyesports.com will introduce you to 24 Hawkeyes who, for one reason or another, are poised to play a prominent role in the intercollegiate athletics program at the UI in the coming year.

by Sean Neugent

IOWA CITY, Iowa — In just one year of competition, University of Iowa sophomore tennis standout Alexis Dorr has shown that hard work and dedication can take you near the top.

At the age of 5, Dorr found herself watching a professional tennis match between two of the greatest tennis stars of all-time — Andre Agassi against Michael Chang. Agassi has been an inspiration to Dorr throughout her career.

“I was actually watching Andre Agassi play against Michael Chang and I wanted to play tennis ever since I saw that match,” she said.

Dorr was a highly-touted recruit coming out of Central Bucks East High School in Doylestown, Pa. Her accomplishments speak for themselves — All-American, state runner-up as a senior, undefeated as a junior and a member of the 2006 USTA G-18 National Team Championships.

“It gave me confidence to be named All-American,” Dorr said. “At first I wasn’t quite sure what that meant, but after I grasped the concept, I felt really good about it. It gave me some confidence. My high point was helping out the team, getting to know them and encouraging them with their tennis. I’ve been playing so much longer than they had and I was just happy to help.”

Dorr’s extensive list of achievements continued as she won a difficult national open in Midland, Texas, under scorching conditions.

“It was a big tournament for me,” she said. “It was a tough tournament as well. I was playing two to three matches in one day and it was a blistering 110 degrees on the court and it made for some tough matches. I did well, so I’m happy about that. I just broke through and did what I could and it was enough.”

Tennis was not the only reason Dorr wanted to come to the UI. In high school she excelled in tennis and also with her academics. Her goal was to go into journalism and mass communication.

“I chose Iowa because I thought it was a very nice place to study,” Dorr said. “They have a great journalism school and I really connected with the players and the coaches on the team.”

UI head coach Daryl Greenan saw tremendous potential in Dorr the student-athlete when he recruited her. It was an impressive sign for the UI tennis program, which had only a year remaining with its two top players — seniors Jacqueline Lee and Milica Veselinovic. A grooming period for Dorr followed as she rotated between No. 3-4 in the lineup. She was paired with Lee as the No. 1 doubles team and flourished in that role. Overall in singles dual matches, Dorr went 12-10 and had a 13-10 record in doubles with Lee.

“I think playing in the summer circuit events prepared me a lot going into the season. I was able to play matches over the summer and it was not a non-competitive environment — it was very competitive and I think that it helped to prepare me enough going into the fall season.”
UI sophomore Alexis Dorr

“As a freshman she came in and played in the middle of the lineup,” Greenan said. “She had a winning record in singles play which is great for a freshman considering the strength of our schedule. I guess in a way, her greatest challenge was for her playing No. 1 in doubles. Overall, a winning record in dual matches in the position she played is a great accomplishment for an incoming freshman. Alexis is a talented, hard-working player. She is no-nonsense and a very focused-type of athlete.”

Lee and Veselinovic gradually helped Dorr become a stronger player. She learned a lot playing in the No. 1 doubles position with Lee. Oddly enough, her favorite competition took place in practice against Veselinovic.

“It helped a lot to play with Jacqueline,” Dorr said. “She was very forceful on the court and knew what she wanted me to do. Just that leadership helped me a lot in improving my doubles skills and it was great playing with her. She was always there and stable. She was always upbeat about everything so it was an enjoyable experience.

“Milica was always pumped up and so motivated. It is great playing her because she is so competitive, she never gives up and just seems to hit every ball on the court. I really enjoyed playing her.”

Dorr had a busy summer competing in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Summer Circuit Events at Penn State and at Cornell University to prepare her for the 2008 season.

“I think playing in the summer circuit events prepared me a lot going into the season,” Dorr said. “I was able to play matches over the summer and it was not a non-competitive environment — it was very competitive and I think that it helped to prepare me enough going into the fall season.”

Much is expected from Dorr, not just from herself, but Greenan sees her having a breakout performance as well.

“My goal is to probably get 25 wins at least in the spring season in singles,” Dorr said. “I think it will be easier and it will be a lot better having one year of experience. I’m excited about this upcoming year and I think that we are going to do very well.”

“I think with a year under her belt, any player with an attitude like Alexis, it kind of builds confidence and I think next year can definitely be a big year for her,” Greenan said. “In her sophomore year I see her as having winning records and even playing higher in the lineup. With her work ethic and her focus, she will improve and become more of an asset as years go on.”

The lineup will not be set until fall, but believe that Dorr will be part of the upper tier on the Hawkeye roster. Greenan will shuffle the deck to see who fits best with each other when the spring season rolls around.

“We lost our No. 1 and No. 2 players from last year so we’re going to have to work real hard to move forward,” Greenan said. “With so many key players coming back, I think we have the build and the talent to do it. Dorr is definitely going to be a contender for one of those top positions. She has the capability to step in and lead by example with her work ethic. She has the ability to hit winners from all over the court. She has powerful ground strokes and I think on top of that she is just a real hard-worker.”

It will be tough to replace the No. 1 and No. 2 two players in the lineup, but with a little hard work, anything is possible. Like her idol Agassi, Dorr has the ability to hit `winners’ because she is one at heart. It is what she has been accredited for her entire high school career and during her short time as a collegiate athlete. If the UI tennis program is on the verge of something great, that greatness will include significant contributions from Dorr.