ISU tennis hits the road early for weekend contests in Minneapolis

Max Dible

The ISU tennis team (6-2, 0-0 Big 12) finds itself away from home for the third consecutive weekend, traveling to Minneapolis for a set of back-to-back showdowns against Minnesota and Marshall.

The Cyclones will take on the Golden Gophers at 6 p.m. Friday and follow that up at 1 p.m. Saturday versus the Thundering Herd.

This will be Iowa State’s second venture to the land of a thousand lakes this season, although the first took place during a run of individual tournaments back in September.

“We match up pretty well against them,” said ISU coach Armando Espinosa. “We saw them at their fall invitational, so we’ve actually had a couple wins against them. We’ve also had some losses.”

The top two Cyclone players — junior Ksenia Pronina who plays at No. 1 singles and freshman Samantha Budai who currently occupies the No. 2 spot — each squared off with Gopher competitors on the final day of the invitational in September 2013.

Pronina claimed second place in the top flight, losing in a third set superbreak to Tereza Brichacova of Minnesota, 6-2, 3-6, 1-0 (5).

Pronina has been struggling of late, losing both of her matches in Florida last weekend, but Espinosa said that getting her back indoors should help to turn things around.

“Being indoors helps [Pronina] more than a lot of people,” Espinosa said. “And you are going to have a chance to play great competition at that number one spot, no matter where you go.”

Budai defeated Paula Rincon Otero, 5-7, 6-4, 1-0 (10), in the second flight of the Gopher Invitational. Espinosa said that Budai’s game has made great strides in the five months since that match.

“Some days [Budai] comes out and plays so much better than others,” Espinosa said. “But, she is very competitive and she is going to find ways to win. That’s what makes the difference.”

Espinosa said that Minnesota will be some of the toughest competition the Cyclones have seen to date, and that this weekend will be useful as a gauge to measure potential Big 12 outcomes.

Minnesota is currently 6-2 on the season.

Iowa State will follow the Minnesota meet with a match-up against Marshall at 1 p.m. Saturday, which will present challenges of its own, as the Thundering Herd has recently had success against big name programs.

“Marshall is a good team,” Espinosa said. “They beat Penn State who is ranked and they beat UPENN — a pretty decent team.”

The Cyclones will utilize the talent they encounter in this weekend’s matches to fine tune their game, said senior Emma Waites.

“By the time we play Big 12, we have played a bunch of matches so you have honed in on your game style and what you plan to do when you play those people,” Waites said. “It is about getting your nerves and your game style figured out.”

The Cyclones left Ames for Minneapolis on Wednesday, a day early, to beat the impending storm headed for the Midwest. The first matches will be 6 p.m. Friday against Minnesota, assuming that conditions cooperate.