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Hawkeyes aim for a return trip to the NCAA Tournament
Head Coach Katie Dougherty and the Hawkeyes open 2011 at the Seminole Invitational.
Head Coach Katie Dougherty and the Hawkeyes open 2011 at the Seminole Invitational.
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Jan. 13, 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.

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Head coach Katie Dougherty led the University of Iowa women's tennis program to new heights in her first season in charge of the Hawkeyes. With five letterwinners returning from the 2010 NCAA Tournament team, she'll look to build on that success in 2010-11.

Iowa reached as high as No. 18 in the International Tennis Association (ITA) national rankings a season ago -- the best in school history. The Hawkeyes advanced to the NCAA Tournament and ended the season with a No. 2 ranking in the ITA Central Region.

"We are ready to go this spring," said Dougherty. "The returners have the experience of going to the NCAA Tournament and the newcomers entered the program knowing the expectations are extremely high. We put in a lot of hard work this fall and know that to be successful this spring we need to do the little things well. Last year we were able to sneak up on people and we know now that everyone will be prepared for us."

Dougherty's top returnee is junior Sonja Molnar. Molnar, a native of Guelph, Ontario, played in the No. 1 singles position for the Hawkeyes a season ago, where she was an all-Big Ten selection after compiling a 28-9 record (7-3 Big Ten). Molnar was a two-time Big Ten Player of the Week and finished the season ranked 55th by the ITA.

Molnar had an impressive 2010 fall campaign, recording a 10-4 singles record while competing in three tournaments. She claimed the Platinum Flight bracket title at the UNI Invite and advanced to the main draw at the ITA All-American Invitational. Molnar also teamed with senior Lynne Poggensee-Wei in doubles to win six of seven matches.

"I can't say enough about Sonja Molnar," said Dougherty. "She consistently gets the most out of herself and is an unbelievable competitor. She makes this team better every day and constantly works to make herself and her teammates better."

Three student-athletes, Poggensee-Wei, Alexis Dorr and Jessica Young, return to Iowa City for their senior seasons. The trio arrived on campus in 2007 as the nation's seventh-best recruiting class. Poggensee-Wei played in the No. 2 position much of last year and ended the year ranked 19th in the ITA Central Region.

"Our seniors are going to be instrumental in us putting together a successful season," said Dougherty. "We will need them all to step up as leaders on and off the court."

Iowa, which was ranked 30th in the 2011 ITA preseason rankings, will begin the spring season Jan. 15-17 at the FSU Seminole Invitational in Tallahassee, Fla. The squad will then travel to Atlanta, Ga., to compete at the ITA Kickoff Weekend Jan. 29-30.

The Hawkeyes will face non-conference opponents Northern Iowa (Jan.22), Miami (Ohio) (Feb. 4), Kansas State (Feb. 6), Marquette (Feb. 19), DePaul (Feb. 20), Missouri (Feb. 27), Nebraska (March 13), LSU (March 16) and Tulane (March 18) before opening Big Ten play at Ohio State March 25.

"We need everyone to step up as leaders on and off the court," said Dougherty. "We need to go into every week with the mentality that we will not be outworked and we will improve. I have an amazing group of young women that want to be successful and our goal is to return to the NCAA Tournament."

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