ISU tennis opens home schedule with weekend contests


Jen Hao Wong/Iowa State Daily

ISU women tennis player Ana Gasparovic practices for the upcoming Drake Fall Invitational in Des Moines this weekend.

Max Dible

The ISU tennis team will play host to Southeast Missouri State and Nebraska-Omaha on Friday at 9 a.m. in its first home contests of 2014.

Iowa State will open the day against Southeast Missouri State in the first meeting ever between the two schools, which could pose a unique challenge, said ISU caoch Armando EspinosaCQ.

“We’ve never played Southeast Missouri State, and so we don’t know much about them,” Espinosa said. “They play Nebraska-Omaha Thursday in Nebraska, so hopefully we should have a little better of an idea about them after that.”

An unknown and unstudied opponent won’t phase Cyclone standout and No. 1 singles player Ksenia ProninaCQ, as her approach to every match is the same.

“The coaches always tell us not to focus on our opponents, but focus on our own game,” Pronina said. “I won’t try to do anything different. I’ll just play my game.”

Next on the docket for Iowa State will be Nebraska-Omaha. Those matches are set to begin around noon on Friday.

“We’ve played Omaha before, and we were able to beat them, but they’re a good team. They’ll come out after you,” Espinosa said.

The second matchup of the day will provide its own specific challenges being the second half of a back-to-back.

“Playing back-to-back is going to be a test for the girls,” Espinosa said. “It’ll be four matches total, two singles and two doubles matches for each girl. Our success will be based on how we deal with fatigue, so it’ll be interesting.”

Samantha BudaiCQ, a freshman who plays at No. 2 singles, shares the coach’s concerns over conditioning. It is something she’s been focusing on all year while trying to acclimate her body to the rigors of college tennis.

“I am trying to work hard on my game and be more consistent,” Budai said. “I want to be able to withstand longer matches, and that’s where the cardio [cardiovascular exercise] comes in.”

Stamina won’t be the only key to victories Friday for Budai, who is also focused on developing a more patient approach to the game.

“I’m really aggressive. I like to hit the ball hard, and I’m good at making my opponents move and hitting winners, but that doesn’t always work,” Budai said. “I heard these teams aren’t as strong, so they won’t hit a lot of big shots, but they will get a lot of shots back. I have to be more patient, place the ball, and not go for too much too fast.”

Pronina’s approach to her matches are similar to Budai’s, except more condensed and even more to the point.

“The key to winning my matches is simple,” Pronina said. “If I win the last point, I’ll win the match.”