By Jake Markowitz
The Iowa men’s tennis team will host three teams this weekend in its final home stand of the season.
The Hawkeyes (12-13, 1-8) will open the weekend by welcoming Michigan (18-5, 7-2) to the Hawkeye Tennis & Recreation Complex April 21. The Wolverines have looked dominant recently, winning eight of their last 10 matches.
Last year’s match against Michigan was not one to remember for Iowa. The Hawkeyes were unable to secure a win in singles or doubles competition and ultimately fell, 4-0.
“We struggled the entire match last year against Michigan,” head coach Ross Wilson said.
“They are a good program, but I think our team this year is capable of competing with them and being successful.”
Starting the weekend with a win will prove to be a difficult task, because the Wolverines have notable players across the board.
In singles, Michigan has three ranked athletes — No. 81 Jathan Malik, No. 109 Alex Knight, and No. 111 Myles Schalet. In doubles, the Wolverines hold the No. 11 and No. 24 tandems.
On April 23, Iowa hosts another team from the Great Lakes State. At noon, Iowa will match up with Michigan State (10-15, 0-9).
Similar to its match last year against Michigan, Iowa did not enjoy success against Michigan State, giving the Spartans their one and only conference win of the season.
Once again, Michigan State comes into its match with the Hawkeyes without a conference win. However, this year the match is in Iowa City, where the Hawkeyes sport a formidable 7-4 record.
“We always seem to come out with a little extra fire at home,” junior Josh Silverstein said. “Hosting our final home matches of the season will only add to that intensity and desire to win.”
Another possible addition to the motivation to win is the ceremony honoring two seniors. On April 23, Robin Haden and Nils Hallestrand will be recognized.
Haden has competed in 77 singles and 47 doubles matches in his two years as a Hawkeye. Hallestrand has played in 57 singles and 56 doubles matches. After growing up playing together in junior tennis, that chemistry carried over to their college careers, where the two seniors from Sweden teamed to pick up six victories.
“I’ve learned a lot from them,” freshman Jason Kerst said. “They’ve been great role models all year long and more importantly great teammates.”
The home stand ends with a match against North Dakota in the nightcap at 5 p.m. on April 23.
North Dakota (5-14) has struggled since the season kicked off, losing its first nine matches.
The team has looked even more flawed on the road, and it is still searching for its first win. Iowa will try to make sure it remains winless to please its recently solidified recruiting class.
The 2017 recruiting class is ranked No. 17 nationally. Iowa’s most notable signee is Piotr Smietana of Krakow, Poland. A three-time Polish national champion, Smietana has an World Junior ranking of 275.
“Now is the time of the year when we have to play consistently good tennis,” Wilson said. “With the season coming to a close soon, it is important for our team to end it on a positive note.”