Waiting her turn: Waites closes senior year for Cyclone tennis in outdoor meet


Senior Emma Waites drives a serve into her Texas Tech opponent’s court at the Cyclone women’s meet against Texas Tech on March 30. Waites is one of  the senior ladies being celebrated for the Cyclone women’s Senior Night. 

Max Dible

The season is not yet finished, but senior Emma Waites closed a chapter on her tennis career at Iowa State fittingly on March 30, playing her final home meet outdoors and under the sun.

“It was nice to get to play outside on my last day,” Waites said. “It was nice to have a great day.”

The skies were not always so calm and clear for Waites as they were on Sunday afternoon. She arrived in Ames in the fall of 2010 as a walk-on, holding nothing as a certainty.

ISU coach Armando Espinosa chronicled Waites’ journey from her freshman year to the present time.

“Emma came in and spent two seasons without a scholarship,” Espinosa said. “She has now been on scholarship the last two years. She went from not even traveling with the squad as a freshman walk-on to securing a singles spot this entire season. It has been huge and that just speaks volumes about how hard she works.”

Unlike most of her teammates, Waites had to wait patiently for years before she started seeing significant court time. It was a crucible that forged her into a starter and contributor even while it was thinning the herd of her potential competition.

“When [Emma] first came, there were two other freshman,” said junior teammate Meghan Cassens. “She is the only one who made it all the way through.”

Waites is the sole senior on a young Iowa State team, and although Espinosa said she is not a vocal leader, he added that she leads at practice by example.

Espinosa said it is Waites’ work ethic and the maturation of her game that has cemented her position on the squad during her senior campaign.

“The last couple years she’s been really focused and her game has changed dramatically,” Espinosa said. “She understands who she is as a tennis player. She ropes her opponents into playing her game and it is a tough game to play. I think she has done a tremendous job.”

The progression Waites has made means as much to her as it does to her coach.

“[This season] has been awesome,” Waites said. “I feel like I have improved. Armando has helped me a lot with my game and it is great that I can contribute more as a player.”

Waites said her final campaign has been a bit of a whirlwind, and as there are still three road meets and the Big 12 tournament left to play, a sense of finality has not yet struck her with full force.

“The season has gone by really fast … but it has been exciting,” Waites said. “I guess it just really has not hit me yet. As we get nearer to the end of the season it will probably get more real.”

Cassens agreed that nothing sinks in until Big 12 play has concluded, but expressed her feelings about what it will mean to lose the only senior on the Cyclone team.

“I think we are all pretty close with her, and as a team we are closer than we have been in the past,” Cassens said. “It will be weird not having her [here].”

Espinosa shared Cassens’ sentiments.

“It has been a pleasure working with Emma,” Espinosa said. “I could not be happier to have a student athlete like that on the team.”