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Nov. 14, 2011



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.

By BRADY JOHNSON

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University of Iowa head men's tennis coach Steve Houghton's job got a little tougher after the unofficial fall season. That won't be a bad thing for the 31-year veteran coach, though.

After plenty of Hawkeyes stepped up in the fall season and proved to be capable varsity players, the task of picking the top-six during the spring becomes a little more challenging considering the depth and talent of Houghton's lineup.

"It makes it difficult, but in a good way," said Houghton, who has 331 career victories as head coach of the Hawkeyes. "After this fall, it looks like we have about four to six guys competing for the final two spots."

Regardless of what the lineup looks like when Iowa returns to the courts on Jan. 28 for the ITA Kickoff Classic, the Hawkeyes should have a full steam of momentum in their favor after a fall season that featured highlight after highlight each weekend.

Iowa finished the season with 58 victories and four flight titles in singles. The Hawkeyes also had 23 doubles wins with two flight titles.

"I've said this a few times since this season got over, but this is one of the best fall seasons I can remember in many years," said Houghton. "We had a lot of individual accomplishments, but overall, we really looked good as a team."

The Hawkeyes' most recent and final highlight of the fall season came from sophomore Jonas Dierckx, who won four straight matches at the Big Ten Indoor Championships to become one of four players left standing in the 64-man singles main draw field. Dierckx and freshman Matt Hagan also won the Flight B main draw title at the Big Ten Indoors.

Iowa's Marc Bruche made Hawkeye history by reaching the main draw of the ITA All-American Championships for the first time in program history. Fellow senior Will Vasos also won four straight matches at that tournament. In doubles, Bruche and Vasos reached the finals match of the Baylor-HEB Invitational.

The Hawkeyes also had three flight titles at the Drake Invitational and finished with a combined 10-1 singles record. Iowa even opened the season with two flight titles at the Purdue Invitational.

With a long list of accolades and accomplishments from the fall season, Iowa will be looking to carry that forward to the spring.

"Overall, we all feel everybody had a positive impact and contributed this season," said senior Christopher Speer, who had a team-best 10-2 singles record. "We just want to keep that moving forward now."

Now that the Hawkeyes can put their successful fall season behind them, Houghton and a motivated lineup are ready to get back to the grind. The fall season, which featured seven tournaments, left little time for individual work. That will all change this offseason.

"It felt like we were just constantly preparing for tournaments," said Houghton. "This November/December period is huge, because we finally have time for individual work. We'll do some significant things with strokes and style of play to get better."

With an experienced lineup coming off a big fall season, Houghton won't have to echo those sentiments to his squad -- they already understand.

"We all know there is a lot of tennis to be played and work to be done," said Speer. "We're going to condition hard this offseason, and us seniors will get everybody together and practice during the offseason to get better."

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