Cyclones begin second season under Saia at Minnesota Invite


Courtesy of Texas Tech Athletic Department

Boomer Saia, head coach of the tennis team, coached at Texas Tech prior to Iowa State.

Cole Carlson

The Iowa State tennis team is approaching one of its most optimistic seasons in program history. Last season, the team accomplished multiple goals and topped many program best accolades. This included a first-ever win over Baylor and beating Nebraska for the first time since 1995.

Coming off of the program’s highest Big 12 finish ever (tied for 7th), improvement in the program is evident and expectations are beginning to grow.

Not only are team expectations beginning to grow, but individual success is predicted. After ending last year ranked 74th nationally as an individual, Maty Cancini comes into the preseason rankings, sitting in 99th.

Head Coach Boomer Saia, who is entering his second year alongside Assistant Coach Kenna Kilgo, has the program trending in the right direction.

Well known as a promising young coach, Saia has an impressive resume that includes stints as an assistant with Kansas (2010-14), Oklahoma (2014-16) and Texas Tech (2017). To add onto this, Saia made a trip to the Final Four with Vanderbilt and most recently the Elite Eight with Texas Tech.

The resume of Kilgo doesn’t fall short either. Kilgo is entering her second year with the Cyclones, after being one of the most decorated players in Texas Tech history from 2012-15 and being the only player to play in four-straight NCAA tournaments for the Red Raiders.

During her senior year, Kilgo made an individual run to the Sweet 16.

The combination of Boomer and Kilgo have overhauled the Cyclones’ roster. The Cyclones have three seniors returning in Maty Cancini, Karen Alvarez and Margarita Timakova. These three will combine with five true freshmen — Chie Kezuka, Oumaima Aziz, Ting-Pei Chang, Thasaporn Naklo and Christin Hsieh — to create a mix of veterans and newcomers.

Alvarez enters her senior year as a doubles starter, finishing last year 6-6 and going 5-1 at the 2018 Gopher Invitational before sitting out the spring with an injury.

As mentioned earlier, Cancini enters her senior year with high expectations after finishing 19-15 in singles and 17-15 in doubles. Cancini pulled off upsets against opponents ranked 29th, 61st, 73rd and 103rd respectively. She also enters the season currently 12th all-time for wins at Iowa State.

Timakova provides consistency to the team as she enters her senior year following three-straight winning seasons in doubles. Last year she finished 17-11 in doubles and started the season winning 10 of 12. In addition to this, Timakova started the season winning five of six in singles.

This combination of senior leadership alongside a highly touted freshman class has Iowa State on an upward trajectory. The freshman class includes ladies ranked 158th, 181st, 456th and 692nd in the world and all of them have a tennis background.

The Cyclones begin their fall season at 9 a.m. Friday at the Minnesota Invite in Minneapolis, but they will do so without freshman Thasaporn Naklo. Naklo will be taking the weekend off after playing at the Lubbock 15K last week. This will be the first look at the 2019 tennis team and a taste of what is to come.