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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.
By SAM STYCH
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa women’s tennis team wrapped up the 2014 season on April 25 at the Big Ten Championships on the campus of Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.
After defeating eighth-seeded Michigan State in the first round, 4-2, the Hawkeyes fell to eventual runner-up and 17th-ranked Michigan in the quarterfinals, 4-1. It was the second-consecutive year Iowa advanced to the quarterfinals.
“We were happy with both matches,” said UI head coach Katie Dougherty. “To be able to beat a good Michigan State team three weeks after losing to them was impressive, and we played Michigan a lot tighter than we did previously. They’re a good team.”
The Hawkeyes finished the season 11-13 overall and 3-8 in the Big Ten. They reached as high as No. 65 in the ITA rankings and defeated four ranked opponents, including No. 42 Illinois.
“Our players were put in positions this year that they normally would not have been put in, and the way they reacted to that is what I’m most proud of,” said Dougherty. “How they responded to that week-in-and-week-out says a lot about them.”
Iowa was led by two-time Big Ten Athlete of the Week and first-team All-Big Ten selection Ruth Seaborne. The senior finished with an overall singles record of 15-7, starting at the No. 1 position in all 22 matches. She was also named Most Valuable Player at the team’s annual awards banquet.
“We could count on Ruth for a lot of things,” said Dougherty. “We knew she could probably put a point-and-a-half on the board for us every time.”
In doubles, Seaborne and junior Morven McCulloch led the way for the Hawkeyes, posting an overall record of 15-5, including a 7-2 mark in conference play. The duo recorded a stretch of 10 consecutive wins and a victory over a top-50 duo in Whitney Ritchie and Mia Lancaster of Oklahoma on Jan. 31.
“That’s the best unranked doubles team in the country,” said Dougherty. “They beat some very good teams and had some close losses. Together they were able to do a lot of good things together. They both learned a lot and helped each other in ways that made them successful.”
Freshman Aimee Tarun was named Most Improved Player. The walk-on from Winnetka, Ill., won five matches this year, including a pair of Big Ten matches at the No. 6 singles spot. Tarun was also presented Iowa’s Sportsmanship Award at the Big Ten awards banquet on April 24.
“Aimee was in a tricky spot this year, but she did an amazing job,” said Dougherty. “She is a classy young woman and seeing her grow this year was unbelievable.”
The Hawkeyes lose a key contributor in Seaborne, but next year’s squad features four seniors and three incoming freshman with top of the lineup potential.
“We have three great players coming in that we couldn’t be more excited about,” said Dougherty. “They’re going to add depth and firepower. The seniors have been through a lot. They were my first recruiting class at Iowa, so I am excited to see what they can do in their final season.”