By Lauren Jimmerson
The Iowa men’s tennis team edged Northwestern in its first match of the Big Ten Tournament at the Hawkeye Tennis & Recreation Complex on Thursday afternoon. The Hawkeyes head to the second round to face Ohio State at 10 a.m. today.
For the 22nd time this season, the Iowa squad garnered an early lead. Kareem Allaf and Jonas Larsen snagged their 17th doubles win, taking down the Wildcats’ No. 1 pair (6-1). Freshmen Will Davies and Piotr Smietana fell, followed by Jake Jacoby and Joe Tyler capturing a narrow victory at No. 3. The duo trailed 5-1 but battled for 6-straight points and a 7-5 win.
Northwestern took the lead at the start of singles, however. Smietana fell to Northwestern’s Nick Brookes, followed by Ben Vandixhorn taking down Tyler, both in straight sets. Larsen grabbed the first singles victory for the Hawkeyes, edging Antonio Fasano in a three-set match.
Josh Silverstein battled to win back the lead for the Hawkeyes. After falling (6-2) in the first set to 124th-ranked Dominik Stary, Silverstein snagged the second set (6-1). The two volleyed in the third set, in which the Iowa senior ultimately captured a 7-6 victory.
“Josh is the type of player who’s going to keep the ball in play, and he’s in really good shape,” head coach Ross Wilson said in a release. “His weapon is breaking the other guy down mentally and to make his opponent tired. When they get to the third set, Josh is able to come out on top like he has all year.”
Allaf triumphed to clinch the Hawkeye victory. The red-shirt sophomore dropped his first set to Jason Seidman of Northwestern but came back to capture sets two and three. Allaf secured an undefeated record against Big Ten opponents playing at No. 4. The victory also marked his ninth straight in April. Davies was leading in his third set when Iowa clinched the match.
“I felt our guys came out today a little nervous and got down early, but we were able to battle back in doubles and grab the point,” Wilson said in a release. “Same thing happened in a couple of singles matches; it reinforces that hanging around in a match can lead to a momentum swing so you can eventually win. We’ve talked about it all year, how we are going to be in these tight matches so you got to have control over your emotions and compete until the end.”
After the victory, the Hawkeyes will play No. 1 seed Ohio State. The Buckeyes earned a first-round bye and will hit the courts today as the third-ranked team in the nation. Ohio State swept Iowa in Columbus on April 6, and it boasts five nationally ranked singles players. The Buckeyes also bring two nationally ranked tandems.
Indiana secured a first-round victory and advances to the quarterfinals with the Hawkeyes to face Minnesota at 10 a.m. Illinois will take on Penn State, and Michigan will face Wisconsin.