Ranked opponents become norm for tennis teams


Photo: Suhaib Tawil/Iowa State Daily

Meghan Cassens prepares to hit the ball right back over the net at the match against Drake 5-2 on Friday, March 8, 2013, at Ames Racquet and Fitness.

Beau Berkley

The Cyclones don’t expect to see anything new on the courts this weekend.

The ISU tennis team (7-10, 0-4 Big 12) will take on both No. 34 Oklahoma (10-6, 3-2) and No. 31 Oklahoma State (10-5, 2-2) this weekend in Ames. 

“We’re in a tough situation because we play such a tough schedule, so it’s hard for the girls to see what they are doing right when they aren’t getting the results,” said ISU coach Armando Espinosa. “If you start to question what you’re doing, it’s going to be a long season.”

The Cyclones have gone up against five ranked opponents so far this season, with three future meets against teams currently ranked in the top 50. In fact, seven of the 10 teams in the Big 12 are currently ranked in the top 50.

For senior Jenna Langhorst, this will be her fourth time competing against Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

“We know they are tough teams, but we are ready to play,” Langhorst said. “We have to start out strong and make a better impression in doubles to show that we belong with them.”

Last year, sophomore Meghan Cassens was the only current ISU player to register a victory against an Oklahoma State player en route to a 5-2 loss against the Cowboys.

“We’ve been playing well and figuring out our weaknesses,” Cassens said. “We had close matches with them last year and they’re about the same skill this year, so I think we have a shot.”

Of the five times the Cyclones have faced ranked opponents, they have yet to register a team victory.

“We just need to have belief,” Cassens said. “I think with higher-ranked teams we kind of go out there and think we don’t have the ability to do as well as we actually can.”

Constantly being the underdogs has made Espinosa instill a stronger mentality and attitude in his players.

“We’re trying to play smarter and make sure we’re not hurting ourselves. We have to make the other person earn the point, not just give it to them,” Espinosa said. “They’re already coming in with more confidence being higher ranked and having a better record, but we can’t just give them the victory. You just have to keep working, keep your nose to the ground and keep going.”

Both meets will be played at the Forker tennis courts this weekend. The match against Oklahoma begins at 3 p.m. April 5 and the match against Oklahoma State will start at 11 a.m. April 7.