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. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.
IOWA CITY, Iowa — A pair of underclassmen are stepping up for the University of Iowa men’s tennis team.
Last season, Kareem Allaf sat and supported his teammates as the Hawkeyes climbed as high as No. 33 in the national team rankings. Now, the redshirt freshman has the team’s best record (7-3) during the fall season.
“Watching the team last year I wanted to play,” said Allaf. “But being there supporting my teammates was also contributing to the team.
“This year is different, I get to play and there’s more meaning to my name on this team. Being around the guys and playing for them is a great feeling.”
True freshman Jason Kerst has also made his mark during the fall season, posting a 6-3 record — the second-best mark on the team.
“(Being able to contribute) has been special for me,” said Kerst. “I’ve had some solid wins.”
His favorite triumph thus far was a Big Ten match against Penn State’s Henry Gordon.
“It was a long one, lasting over 3 1/2 hours,” Kerst said. “He’s a good player, but I fought hard.
“(UI head coach) Ross Wilson was on my court whole time and helped me through that mentally and I ended up winning 7-5 in the third set. That was a match that gave me confidence that I could compete at the top level of the Big Ten.”
Both Kerst and Allaf will be tested over this weekend at the Big Ten Indoor Championships in Madison, Wisconsin.
“You just have to concentrate, focus and if you can play well for three days straight a lot of good things can happen,” Allaf said.
Last season, the Hawkeyes had three underclassmen win their first round matches; this year’s group is looking to advance further.
“This is a good opportunity for me to be ranked at the end of this semester,” said Allaf.
Kerst is looking forward to both singles and doubles action. He hopes to make a run in the doubles bracket with senior Nils Hallestrand.
“We played together a few weeks ago and won our first match,” Kerst said. “I think we have a lot of confidence together and we can make a deep run.”
Both Hawkeyes look forward to playing against other Big Ten student-athletes and using the tournament to prepare for the upcoming spring season.
“This sets the tone for how you compete against those other guys,” said Kerst. “We want to notch a few victories and make sure Iowa is at the forefront of the Big Ten at the end of this season.”