New Era is on the Horizon

Jan. 21, 2010

IOWA CITY, IA – In 2006, the Iowa tennis program opened a new facility. In 2009, the University of Iowa Athletics Department introduced a new head coach. Now, in 2010, a new era of Iowa women’s tennis officially begins.

On November 19, 2009, Katie Dougherty was named the seventh head coach in the history of the Iowa women’s tennis program. A veteran of the Big Ten conference, Dougherty was a four-year letterwinner at Wisconsin before spending a combined five seasons as an assistant coach with Penn State and, most recently, the Badgers.

As a first-year head coach, Dougherty will attack her rookie season with a group of veteran Hawkeyes eager to leave a positive impression on the Iowa program. The Iowa roster, composed of athletes from four states and three countries outside the U.S., is excited to help their new coach put Iowa tennis on the national and international landscape.

“We’re returning a talented, veteran squad with three seniors and no freshman,” said Dougherty. “I joined the program in the fall and the team quickly adapted to my coaching style and expectations. Our non-conference schedule is competitive and the Big Ten is very strong this year. We’re going to have a number of opportunities to upset ranked teams and re-establish ourselves as a Big Ten contender.”

Leading the climb to the top will be reining Big Ten Freshman of the Year Sonja Molnar. The all-conference performer returns to the No. 1 position in 2010 after compiling an 18-4 mark at the top spot last season. The 2008 Canadian National Junior Champion enters her sophomore campaign ranked No. 65 by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association.

“Molnar is coming off a great freshman season and a strong fall,” said Dougherty. “She’s a fierce competitor and she’s going to win some big matches for us this year. She has the ability to beat the best players in the country. She’ll be a big part of our success this season.”

Molnar will be complemented by fellow sophomore Ally Majercik and a trio of juniors and seniors that used the 2009 season to gain experience and get healthy.

Merel Beelen returns to the Iowa lineup after an injury sidelined her for most of 2009.

Senior Merel Beelen is expected to compete at 100-percent for the first time in her Hawkeye career. A native of Holland, Beelen missed nearly all of last season due to injury. She returns to the lineup with experience at the top three doubles positions and a history of singles success, posting a 25-7 record as a sophomore.

“Beelen is healthy after an injury laden career,” said Dougherty. “She competed well this fall and is primed to have a strong spring. She is very talented and has the proven ability to win big matches.”

Though the Iowa roster is without a single freshman, the Hawkeyes will welcome one newcomer to this year’s squad. Senior Zuzana Chmelarova transferred to Iowa from Baylor prior to the 2009 fall season. While a member of the Bears’ tennis program, Chmelarova captured two Big 12 double titles and helped guide Baylor to the 2007 Big 12 Championship.

“The addition of Zuzi Chmelarova provides more depth to our singles and doubles lineups,” said Dougherty. “She competed with the best when she was at Baylor and proved she can compete at the highest level.”

Kelsey Klockenga, a senior from Overland Park, KS, returns to the Hawkeye lineup following a very successful fall campaign. A three-time letterwinner, Klockenga boasts a 51-45 career record heading into her senior season.

“Klockenga is a very good competitor and I’m confident every time I send her out on the court that she’ll find a way to win,” said Dougherty.

Iowa’s junior trio of Alexis Dorr, Lynne Poggensee-Wei and Jessica Young are positioned to take a veteran leap since arriving on campus in 2007 as the nation’s seventh-ranked recruiting class. Dorr held down Iowa’s No. 2 spot in the lineup last season after posting a 19-13 overall mark as a freshman.

“We’re looking for Dorr to hit her stride this spring,” said Dougherty. “She has the ability to play at a very high level and I’m confident she’ll be a big contributor this year.”

Poggensee-Wei anchored Iowa’s No. 3 singles position in 2009 and proved to be a dominant doubles partner last fall, posting a 6-1 record while splitting time with Molnar and Chmelarova.

Head Coach Katie Dougherty makes her Hawkeye debut this weekend at the HTRC.

“Poggensee-Wei had a great fall and proved she deserves to play in the top of the lineup,” said Dougherty. “She has a lot of weapons in her game and we’re going to look to her to really step up this spring.”

Young, a former two-time high school all-American, has shown improvement each season and posted an impressive 6-3 singles record last fall. The Michigan native also teamed with Klockenga to record a 7-2 doubles mark en route to a second-place finish at the Midwest Regional tournament.

“Young will be a critical part of our singles and doubles lineups this year,” said Dougherty. “She adds depth and experience and knows how to win matches.”

Majercik, a sophomore from Overland Park, KS, played in 10 Big Ten matches as a freshman in 2009. She returned in the fall to post a 2-1 singles record and is expected to increase her contributions in 2010.

“Majercik is one of the hardest working athletes I’ve worked with,” said Dougherty. “She’s made great improvements and added variety to her game in the last year. The way that she practices and competes makes the entire team better.”

The Hawkeye veterans should limit the growing pains that typically accustom a first-year head coach, so Dougherty is placing her teams’ focus solely on the court.

“We have a talented group of athletes. Our success is going to depend on putting the pieces together, being disciplined and taking advantage of opportunities.”