Feb. 27, 2013
- Coach Houghton talks about Iowa Men’s Tennis’ 6-Match Win Streak
- Read the February issue of Hawk Talk Monthly
- Download your Iowa Hawkeye iPhone app!
- Iowa and the Big Ten Network
- Big Ten Network: Free Hawkeye Video
- 24 Hawkeyes to Watch
Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Fueled by doubles teams that have won 17-of-19 matches, the University of Iowa men’s tennis team is off to its fastest start in four seasons.
The Hawkeyes opened the spring campaign with a 5-2 loss to Illinois State on Jan. 25. Since, they have won six straight, including a 4-3 decision against Western Michigan on Feb. 24 in the Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Complex.
UI head coach Steve Houghton described the dual against the Broncos as a “crazy, crazy four-hour match.” The pivotal point came from junior Jonas Dierckx at No. 2 singles. Dierckx won the first set 6-4 before Ross VanderPloeg of Western Michigan took the second set by the same score. Dierckx prevailed 7-5 in the third for the match-winner.
“(Dierckx) was up against it and pulled it out in a very close match and then it was victory for us,” Houghton said. “It was a great way to finish this stage of the season.”
“Doubles continues to improve, and to get that doubles point and to get off to a good start is a big factor in college tennis. You have some momentum, and in the end of a close match that could be crucial. (Doubles play) is a strength of the team, but one of the difficulties is that it’s only worth one point, even if you sweep all three doubles matches. It doesn’t sound like it’s all that important, but there is such parity in college tennis now that that doubles point can be crucial.”
UI men’s tennis coach
Statistically, Dierckx is one of the top Hawkeyes through the first seven competitions. He is 6-1 at No. 2 singles and has paired with sophomore Matt Hagan for a 6-0 record at No. 2 doubles. The No. 1 doubles team of senior Garrett Dunn and junior Michael Swank is 5-1, with its lone setback coming against Ruben Greiner and Nadin Indre of Western Michigan, 8-6. Iowa’s No. 3 doubles team of junior Joey White and junior Juan Estenssoro is 5-1.
“Doubles continues to improve, and to get that doubles point and to get off to a good start is a big factor in college tennis,” Houghton said. “You have some momentum, and in the end of a close match that could be crucial. (Doubles play) is a strength of the team, but one of the difficulties is that it’s only worth one point, even if you sweep all three doubles matches. It doesn’t sound like it’s all that important, but there is such parity in college tennis now that that doubles point can be crucial.”
Houghton, the dean of Big Ten Conference coaches, is in his 32nd year as head coach of the Hawkeyes. He has recorded 338 wins — the most of any coach in UI men’s tennis history. Houghton is reloading a program that was hit hard by injuries a year ago and finished 1-22 overall, 0-12 in the Big Ten.
“Last year we lost four of our starters right off the bat, so it was difficult,” Houghton said. “We were doing everything we could to tread water.”
The 2012-13 version of Hawkeyes has remained injury-free, providing the push to a fast and successful start. The last time a UI men’s tennis team won six straight matches was from Feb. 1-28, 2010 with victories against Texas A&M Corpus Christi, Memphis, Northern Illinois, Western Michigan, Drake, and DePaul.
If the Hawkeyes extend their current streak to seven in a row, they will have to do so against in-state rival Drake, a team ranked No. 36 in the nation. The Bulldogs (10-1) have won 10 straight since losing to Florida State, 4-3, on Jan. 26.
“That has been a real good rivalry over the years. Drake has a strong tradition, and we have had really good matches with them — ups-and-downs, back-and-forth,” Houghton said. “On paper we would be an underdog, but I do think our guys have built a lot of confidence through this winning streak.”
With a roster of one senior, six juniors, three sophomores, and two freshmen, Houghton expects “good things” this season, “great things” in 2013-14.
But first things first. The Hawkeyes return to the Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Complex for an eighth straight time this season Wednesday to entertain Drake. Action begins at 6 p.m. (CT).
“It gets noisy in that facility whether you get a ton of people there or not,” Houghton said. “The Drake match has drawn good crowds. It’s a good atmosphere for playing.”