The Iowa men’s tennis team will try to get its season back on track as it hosts Arkansas on Friday and DePaul on Feb. 5 at the Hawkeye Tennis and Recreational Complex.
The Hawkeyes enter the weekend at 1-2, after falling to William and Mary and Dartmouth before defeating George Washington at the Tribe Kickoff Tournament last weekend in Virginia.
Iowa has been led by sophomore Jonas Dierckx, who went 3-0 last week in singles play and has won seven of eight matches overall spanning back to December.
“He’s just a really confident guy now; he doesn’t miss a whole lot of balls,” Iowa head coach Steve Houghton said. “He makes you beat him.”
The other bright spot has been the team’s doubles play, where Iowa is 5-1 on the season despite playing with some “experimental” lineups, in Houghton’s words.
The Razorbacks come to Iowa City having started the season 3-0, and are led by No. 109-ranked Manfred Jeske.
Houghton, who plans to return to the team on Friday after missing last weekend’s event with pancreatitis, knows wins will be hard to come by on Friday.
“Arkansas is in the SEC, which widely — like football, in a sense — is viewed in tennis as a top conference, top to bottom” Houghton said. “The home court will help us, but they have some very solid players.”
Though Dierckx is on a roll, the Hawkeyes need to get contributions from their other five players; they combined to go 3-10 in singles play last weekend.
“We’ve got some guys that are playing even further up [in the lineup] than they have before, or for the first time” Houghton said. “The other matches when Will [Vasos] lost, it was against some really good players.”
DePaul comes to town having lost two straight after starting the season 4-0. The Blue Demons are led by former Iowa assistant coach Matt Brothers, who is in his fifth season in Chicago.
“We’ve generally done well against them over the years.” Houghton said. “Our guys, I think, are fired up.”
The Hawkeyes have some recent history to look back to when scouting their opponents this weekend. Last season, Iowa lost two close contests at both Arkansas and DePaul.
After this weekend, the Hawkeyes won’t play at home until March 4 — a scheduling quirk Houghton thinks will help motivate his team for this weekend.
“There’s family and friends cheering them on.” Houghton said. “I think our guys will be doubly fired up because of that.”
— by Tom Clos