Jan. 13, 2014
EDITOR'S NOTE: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa's December edition of Hawk Talk Monthly, the UI athletics department's online publication.
By DAN WALLACE
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University of Iowa junior Matt Hagan has taken the road less traveled being a member of the Hawkeye men's tennis program.
From a young age, it was written in the stars that Hagan would become a Nebraska Cornhusker. He came from a long line of family members who had attended the university -- his grandfather, grandmother, uncle, and his father, Steve, who played tennis at Nebraska his freshman year.
Hagan was offered the opportunity to play tennis for the Cornhuskers, the school he grew up cheering for and be close to his hometown, but he had different plans.
"I wanted to do something different from what my entire family had done," said Hagan. "All of my best friends go to Nebraska, but I thought it would be good to do something different and meet new people. It has been an awesome experience so far."
However, the road less traveled tends to bring with it some bumps along the way.
His freshman year on campus, Hagan played in the No. 1 spot, drawing the best players from across the Big Ten. He finished the year 6-20 overall and 2-19 during the spring dual season. Some athletes would get discouraged by the results, Hagan used the year as a chance to learn what it takes to be successful in the Big Ten.
"I gained so much experience my freshman year because every weekend I was facing some of the top players in the country," said Hagan. "Playing against guys that would go on to become All-Americans showed me what it would take to be successful in college tennis."
The results started to come in his sophomore year. Hagan still spent a large portion of his time in the No. 1 spot, but saw his win total increase to 10 wins in singles, including a four-match winning streak. His biggest stride, however, came in doubles play where he went 16-6, splitting time between the No. 1 and No. 2 spots.
Now a junior, Hagan will once again be called upon to produce for the Hawkeyes. He has been striving to better his game, and that starts with his footwork and overall approach.
"I'm trying to stay aggressive this year, and that all starts with footwork," said Hagan. "In juniors, I was never taught proper footwork, so I have been trying to fix that. Now that I am older I think I have a better mental focus to the game, and go out with a strategy in mind each time I take the court."
As the Hawkeyes prepare for the start of the spring season, Hagan likes what he sees out of the squad. Much of the team was back on campus early to put in the extra time before the start of the spring. The work is geared toward having a successful spring where Hagan believes the team will be playing with a chip on their shoulder.
"We really have something to show for Iowa tennis," said Hagan. "We came here to be successful, especially in the Big Ten, and we hope to accomplish that this year."
Iowa opens its spring season Feb. 1, hosting a double dual against Illinois State and Western Illinois at the Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Center.