Jan. 27, 2016
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Editor’s note: 24 Hawkeyes to Watch is a feature released Wednesday, July 29, highlighting one athlete from each of the 24 intercollegiate sports offered by the University of Iowa. More than 700 talented student-athletes are currently busy preparing for the 2015-16 athletics year at the UI. Hawkeyesports.com will introduce you to 24 Hawkeyes who, for one reason or another, are poised to play a prominent role in the intercollegiate athletics program at the UI in the coming year.
By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Dominic Patrick saw the writing on the wall. As the lone senior for the University of Iowa men’s tennis team, he knew he needed to set an example.
Patrick filled the role throughout the fall season and was addressed as “captain” by his Hawkeye teammates. His leadership was recognized when he was presented his uniform donning the captain’s “C” prior to the season-opening, 7-0, victory over No. 70 Utah State.
“I sensed being the team captain, but when you get to wear (the “C”), it’s more special,” he said. “I feel like the big dog with it. It gives you more confidence and it’s something you’ve earned.”
UI head coach Ross Wilson saw Patrick take accountability following the 2015 season.
“He has become the leader of the team last summer, in the fall, and now,” said Wilson. “He is getting the guys together in offseason workouts and is leading the energy in practice, making sure everybody is doing the right things.
“He is the example, I tell the guys that all the time. If you want to see what you’re supposed to do off the court, do what Dom does. If you want to see how hard you’re supposed to work on the court, Dom’s the example. If you want to see how we want to compete on the court during matches, he’s the guy we want.
“He is the example, I tell the guys that all the time. If you want to see what you’re supposed to do off the court, do what Dom does. If you want to see how hard you’re supposed to work on the court, Dom’s the example. If you want to see how we want to compete on the court during matches, he’s the guy we want.”
“He has been a good role model for the guys, off the court he gets it done in school and makes good decisions off the court. In every aspect, he’s exactly what we want our players to be.”
Patrick was born in Rockford, Illinois, where he wrestled as a kid; he didn’t pick up a racquet until he was 6 or 7 years old. He lived in Illinois until he was 8 when his family moved to Gilbert, Arizona.
In the desert, Patrick and his older brother, Lucas, battled on tennis courts.
“He had me until I was 14,” said Patrick of his older brother, who went on to play at a community college. “Then I had enough. We had some verbal battles out there, and then it became athletic battles. It pushed us to be the best we could.”
Patrick played his way to being the Arizona State High School singles champion as a senior at Campo Verde High School and he was a five-star recruit; being ranked No. 1 in the Southwest Region and No. 58 nationally.
“I enjoyed winning a lot in juniors,” said Patrick. “That was the main goal for all of us, to win and get high up in the rankings nationally.”
When colleges began calling, Patrick had his eye on a move back to the Midwest. He wanted to go to a program where he could be a difference-maker and help it grow. Patrick knew of the Big Ten Conference’s tennis reputation; he wanted to be a part of it.
Patrick’s first season as a Hawkeye didn’t go as planned. He says the team chemistry was off, which corresponded to Iowa struggling to a 7-17 overall record and a winless mark in Big Ten play. Individually, Patrick battled injury, going 8-11 in singles.
“The first year he was trying to find himself and a game style,” said Wilson. “He was trying to get confident with the expectation of winning. Every year he has had a little more success, and a lot of that can be attributed to the time he puts in during the summer and how seriously he takes practice to work on his game.”
Patrick won a team-high 14 dual singles matches during his sophomore season (23 singles matches overall) and Iowa won nine duals. At the start of his junior season, Patrick teamed with Matt Hagan to claim the Big Ten Indoor Doubles championship — the first for the Hawkeyes since 1958 — and the success carried over into the spring, when the Hawkeyes won 14 duals — the most victories since 1991 — and four Big Ten duals — the most since 2010.
“Sophomore year, we were able to start getting chemistry together on the team,” said Patrick. “That’s the most important thing that has brought us to the next level and will continue to bring us forward, especially this season. We’re a tight team, and it has been fun watching everyone grow.”
Patrick isn’t just being counted on to lead; he is now in the taxing role as Iowa’s No. 1 singles player for the first time in his career.
“You have to be mature and be ready for the battle every time you go out there,” said Wilson of playing No. 1. “I am confident Dom is ready for that. You have to have an all-around game and this summer, Dom improved his volleys, his ability to finish at the net, and his first serve.”
Patrick posted a three-set victory over Utah State’s Jaime Barahas in his debut at No. 1 singles. It didn’t come without pre-match jitters.
“There is a lot of pressure, I was nervous before that first match,” he said. “It was a different experience because you can’t have any mental lapses or you’ll find yourself down a break or there will be a big gap. Being at the top of the lineup, everybody is looking up to you to be a leader as well as to keep your team on the board. It was a new experience, but I enjoyed it.”
Patrick wants his Hawkeye career to end on a high. He wants to help propel Iowa to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history.
“That’s every team’s long-term goal,” said Patrick. “We need seven ranked wins this year (to have a shot). We have one win, and we play around 15 or 16 ranked teams. We need to go out and compete, continue moving forward, and have our guys mature. That’s going to be the biggest thing, if we can go out and play to our ability that we practice at. (If we can), we have a good future.”
Wilson believes the team will go as far as its senior captain takes them. He knows the importance of having a strong leader at the top with a roster of nine featuring six underclassmen.
“This team is going to go as far as Dom can lead us,” said Wilson. “I told Dom this summer we’re going to have a lot of young guys, they’re going to need direction, and you’re going to be the guy people are going to look to.
“If you’re able to handle that responsibility and be successful on the court, we’ll have a great season. So far, he has put us in a great position to have the opportunity to have a good season.”
That is why he’s wearing the C.