Oct. 5, 2015
- Read the October issue of Hawk Talk Monthly
- Download your Hawk Talk Monthly iOS app
- Download your Hawk Talk Monthly android app
- Download your Iowa Hawkeye iPad and iPhone app!
- Download your Iowa Hawkeye Android app!
- Big Ten Network: Free Hawkeye Video
- 24 Hawkeyes to Watch
BY JACK ROSSI
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa women’s tennis team was due for a big roster turnover when nearly half its roster exhausted its eligibility in 2015.
Four seniors were out, and five newcomers were in. Like any other graduating class, the physical presence of last year’s seniors was replaced by this year’s rookies. But unlike previous years, this crop of newbies came with veteran leadership.
Junior Natalie Looney has been through this before. The Overland Park, Kansas, native ended her stellar tennis prep career by committing to South Carolina and after two years of on and off competition as a Gamecock, Looney decided a change was needed. She began looking for a new school.
“When I decided I wanted to transfer, I had some schools I was going to visit,” Looney said. “My first official visit was (to Iowa) and after talking to coach and seeing everything, it was one of those things where I just knew.”
The process happened so quickly that before UI head coach Katie Dougherty knew it, she was in Kansas City visiting the potential Hawkeye.
“I found out she was transferring, got into a car, and drove halfway to Kansas City to see her the next day,” Dougherty said. “I watched her train, had a long lunch with her and her father, and she came on a trip two days later to Iowa. It was a quick deal.”
One month into the school year, Iowa looks to be a perfect fit for Looney. She gets to be closer to home while still benefitting from the resources of a large Division I school, and her experience at South Carolina has made the transition as smooth as possible.
“It was a pretty easy transition,” Looney said. “Coach Dougherty and the coaches at South Carolina both want the same thing and stand for the same things. They are all about the team.”
“The new players have gotten up to speed quickly,” Dougherty said. “Natalie has done a great job stepping up into a leadership role and she understands from her time in the SEC what it’s all about.”
Looney is a natural fit to help lead a group of four freshmen into a new situation, but she is keenly aware and respectful of the time put in by Iowa’s returning letterwinners.
“I would say I was kind of a leader in South Carolina, but coming in here I wanted to sit back and watch how things went for a couple weeks,” Looney said. “There are four freshman and five returning players, including two other upperclassmen, so I’m coming into a great situation where I can lead and be led.”
Looking forward, the team has growing to do, but over time Dougherty believes that Looney is in a good position to be an impact player.
“She was in a position at South Carolina where she was in and out of the lineup and I see her in our lineup a lot in both singles and doubles,” Dougherty said. “She’s going to keep getting better and better. She has a huge upside and I think her best tennis is ahead of her.”