Homecoming ended up winning out over Senior Day on the outdoor courts at the Dillon Tennis Center on Sunday.
With a strong local contingent cheering her on, former four-time Elkhorn South state champion Samantha Mannix won both her singles and doubles matches to help propel No. 43 Iowa to a 4-1 win over No. 44 Nebraska in the final regular-season Big Ten match for both teams.
Mannix and her partner Alexa Noel set the tone in doubles, overcoming a 4-0 deficit at No. 1 to pull out a 7-6 (7-5) win over NU’s Maja Makoric and Kristina Novak to secure the doubles point for the Hawkeyes (12-6 overall, 12-4 Big Ten).
Mannix, a junior, then rolled past Husker senior Claire Reifeis 6-3, 6-1 at No. 3 singles, part of a dominating performance by the Hawkeyes in the top three singles spots.
“It’s always a little tough because I have a lot of fans who come out and support. That’s awesome to have them, but it adds a little pressure,” said Mannix, who trained at Woods Tennis Center while she was in high school. Both Woods general manager Kevin Heim and head pro Talor Wain were there Sunday cheering her on.
“It’s always a little interesting coming back home, but it was a great day for the team and really nice to be able to pull out a win," Mannix said.
Part of that pressure of playing back home was evident early in the doubles match, which started the dual.
“I was a little nervous at the start, and my partner Lex and I just kind of leaned on each other and we were able to claw our way back into it,” Mannix said. “It was a battle, and we haven’t been able to pull out a couple matches like this earlier in the season, so it was nice to get that one. It gave us a lot of momentum heading into the singles.”
Mannix controlled things against Reifeis with her serve and forehand. And even though Mannix won the final four games, there were some anxious moments for her as it appeared she was beginning to cramp in her left leg.
“I guess I didn’t hydrate as well as I should have,” said Mannix, who improved to 9-7 in conference play and 13-10 overall this spring. “I never actually cramped, but I started feeling some twinges after some of the points. I’ve never cramped before, and I tried to fight it off with some Gatorade and bananas on changeovers.
“Claire’s a great player, and I realized to win the match I needed to be on offense,” added Mannix, who lost to Reifeis in their only other meeting in an ITA summer tournament two years ago. “I was going for a lot of forehands.”
Noel, ranked No. 13 in the country with a 22-0 record this year, won at No. 1 singles 6-0, 6-4 over Novak, who is ranked No. 125. The Hawkeyes’ Elise Van Heuvelen, No. 86 nationally, downed NU’s Isa Adrover Gallego 6-3, 6-1 at No. 2.
At 11-5, the Huskers enjoyed their best Big Ten regular season since winning the conference title back in 2013.
The Huskers are still in a strong position to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013 when NU won its first two matches and reached the final 16.
The Big Ten Tournament is April 29-May 2 in Madison, Wisconsin. The Huskers earned a first-round bye at the tournament. They'll face the winner of Maryland-Rutgers on April 29 at 6 p.m.