BY JAKE KRZECZOWSKI | OCTOBER 13, 2009 7:20 AM
While most of the Big Ten’s focus may have been on Iowa City this weekend, the Iowa men’s tennis team headed the other direction, taking four players to the Purdue Invitational in Lafayette, Ind.
With the top four players worn out from the long Intercollegiate Tennis Association regional meet in Tulsa, Okla., last week, the majority of the weekend’s lineup was much younger than usual.
The first day of action found the Hawkeyes in possession of four singles wins.
Sophomore Tom Mroziewicz took down Billy Heuer of Purdue in the initial round of the Flight A competition before dropping a match to Purdue’s Branko Kuzmanovic.
He also paired with junior Austen Kauss for doubles play, in which the two advanced to the semifinals, beating doubles teams from Eastern Illinois and Butler.
The meet brought yet another first for a young Iowa team — freshman Connor Gilmore recorded his first win of his collegiate career, defeating Ben Shafer of Butler before falling to Matt Manasse of Purdue in the second round of Flight B action.
Gilmore received the nod to attend the tournament over the weekend after an injury to fellow freshman Garret Dunn opened up a spot on the roster. The absence of the 6-8 Dunn, another first-timer last week for Iowa, left big shoes to fill after he impressively won his first singles and doubles matches last week as a Hawkeye at the Northwestern Invitational in Evanston, Ill.
“I’m now starting to understand just what college tennis is,” Gilmore said. “I got my feet wet a little bit, tried to do as best I could for myself as well as the team.”
The meet at Purdue was Gilmore’s first traveling. He credited the help and advice he got from teammates for the success in his first competition since high school.
“Everyone was helpful and got along all weekend,” he said. “It helped that I had those guys around to be there for me.”
He teamed with redshirt freshman Mitch Beckert in the doubles arena. The pair dropped its first matches on Oct. 10.
The invitational was the first chance the two have had to play together in a competitive atmosphere.
“We don’t really play a whole lot together,” Beckert said. “We started off pretty slow in our first couple matches, but I felt like we finished strong.”
Beckert, who also saw his first collegiate action last weekend, could relate to the nerves Gilmore felt before the match. To keep him calm, Beckert thought back to his own début last weekend and offered encouraging advice throughout the match.
On Sunday, Kauss played in the Flight A consolation semifinals for singles, where he fell to Marquette’s J.G. Crowley. Beckert also dropped his last singles match of the tournament after losing in the Flight B portion.
The Hawkeyes have this week off before returning to Tulsa, Okla., for the Intercollegiate Tennis Association regional tournament on Oct. 22-26.
“We’re glad to have this week off,” Gilmore said. “We’ve seen what we all can do. Now, we need to focus on what we can do to get better.”