March 3, 2010
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By David Meyer
IOWA CITY, Iowa — By defeating DePaul 7-0 on Sunday, Feb. 28, the University of Iowa men’s tennis team won its sixth consecutive meet and improved to 6-1 during the young season. Two Hawkeyes, senior Reinoud Haal and sophomore Will Vasos, have been key ingredients to the hot start.
“We’ve been really strong at No. 3 and No. 4 in singles,” said UI head coach Steve Houghton.
Haal defeated the Blue Demons’ Ben Hartman, 6-1, 6-4, and Vasos disposed of Mathias Hambach, 6-4, 6-4, to preserve Iowa’s perfect record at the Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Complex.
“We were kind of flat in doubles, but I think we all came out pretty strong in singles, so overall I’d say it’s a good win,” said Haal.
Iowa swept singles play, with four of the six triumphs coming in straight sets. The dominating performance came easier than most of the Hawkeye victories this season.
“We’ve won a lot of 4-3 matches. Our formula has kind of been win the doubles point, then at least split the singles matches. That’s worked pretty well in some close matches,” said Houghton.
Haal and Vasos share their team’s 6-1 record in singles play and have also rattled off six straight each. The duo’s success has been vital to their squad in narrow victories, but they maintain a workman-like attitude.
“I’m hoping to contribute as much as I can to the team, and hopefully we can continue to do well,” said Vasos.
Iowa’s lone loss came in the Jan. 30 opening meet, at No. 6 Baylor. Haal and Vasos suffered their only defeats in Waco, Texas, as well, but the pair has handled every opponent they have faced since.
“They could possibly be playing up higher in the lineup,” said Houghton, “They’re pretty close to our No. 1 and No. 2 guys, so they’re just strong for their position. Both of those guys had plenty of success last year, so I think they’ve fed off of that too.”
Last spring, Haal was 12-8 overall in singles competition, while Vasos finished at 11-10. Now, both players are looking to better those records.
“I’ve just been working really hard in practice. I’ve been taking what my coaches have been saying and using it in matches, and just trying new things and trying to improve every week.”
UI sophomore Will Vasos
“I’ve just been working really hard in practice,” said Vasos, “I’ve been taking what my coaches have been saying and using it in matches, and just trying new things and trying to improve every week.”
The Hawkeyes are not complacent. The team knows it needs to use this part of the schedule to make advancements in their game.
“We need to make big improvements between now and the beginning of the Big Ten season,” said Houghton.
With seven teams in the top 50 of the ITA rankings, the conference slate is imposing. Despite the demanding competition, Iowa has their sights set on a plus-.500 record.
“Our goal is to have a winning Big Ten season,” Haal said. “That would be nice. We were 4-6 last year, so make that 6-4 this year, at least.”
The 55th-ranked Hawkeyes want to rise a bit in the national standings before beginning conference play.
“We want to go to NCAAs, and to do that, you need to get up in the rankings,” said Houghton.
The NCAA Tournament is an aspiration for the Hawkeyes every year, but they have not made an appearance since 1989.
“I think this year, with the team that we have, and the chemistry, it’s definitely a possibility,” said Vasos.
The reality of that chance may lie on the shoulders of the men in the middle of the Iowa singles lineup.