The Iowa men’s tennis team finished up the fall portion of its season this past weekend at the Big Ten singles tournament at Michigan State.
The meet was a roller coaster, with wins and losses that forced the Hawkeyes to swallow hard to keep their lunch down.
On the first day of competition, Oct. 30, the inaugural doubles portion of the tournament opened with the pairing of sophomore Will Vasos and senior Tommy McGeorge, who continued their recent domination and defeated duos from Illinois, Michigan, and Michigan State before losing in the semifinals.
The two finished the tournament in third place.
“That’s really an accomplishment for those guys,” Iowa head coach Steve Houghton said. “Those guys keep getting better and better. That was definitely a highlight.”
Also competing in doubles matches were sophomore Marc Bruche and senior Reinoud Haal, who won their first match before bowing out in the ensuing round of Flight A play. In the Flight B portion, junior Nikita Zotov and senior Austen Kauss finished the tournament after two wins, as did the pair of senior Patrick Dwyer and freshman Garret Dunn.
In the first round, Kauss battled No. 2 overall seed Slavko Bijela of Purdue, defeating him in three sets before losing in the next round.
“That guy has been one of the best Big Ten players over the past two years,” Houghton said about Bijela. “Austen’s win was probably the biggest upset of the tournament. That was a big step for him to beat a guy like [Bijela].”
Haal and Bruche came into the tournament seeded 10th and 11th, respectively. Haal fell in the first round, but Bruche went on a run, blitzing through the first day of singles play on his way to the round of 16.
Also advancing past the first day were Dunn and Zotov, who both won their first round matches in the back-draw competition. Kauss and McGeorge received first-round byes.
Sunday wasn’t very friendly to the Hawkeyes, though.
Bruche fell to Mike Srocynski of Michigan (6-4, 6-3) in the round of 16 — a disappointing finish to an otherwise solid weekend for the German.
All of the back draw competitors fell in the third round.
“It was a bit of a disappointment after the day we had [on Oct. 31],” Houghton said. “I think we were done by noon on Sunday.”
The meet was the last for the Hawkeyes until Jan. 29, 2010, when the team will travel to Waco, Texas, for the Kickoff Classic. During the break, the team will train individually, with full-team practice starting back up once the team gets back to campus following winter break.
The fall portion of the team’s season is often characterized as a way to prepare for the spring. The Iowa players feel they have done a good job of that thus far.
“We definitely learned some things we have to work on,” McGeorge said. “Both we and the coaches know what those things are, and the break will give us a chance to focus on them.”