Big 12 Series: Tennis, strength of conference remains unchanged


Illustration: Ryan Francois/Iowa State Daily

Departures and arrivals in the Big 12’s tennis scene won’t affect competition as a whole or travel costs, for Iowa State at least.

Michael Schmitt

With conference realignment taking place, the Big 12 Conference will lose a powerhouse — Texas A&M — that has combined for five conference championships in both men’s and women’s tennis.

But with the addition of Texas Christian University and West Virginia, the Big 12 will not lose any level of competition for its remaining members.

While the loss of the Texas A&M hurts the conference overall, losing Missouri affects Iowa State even more.

“Missouri was our travel partner,” said ISU assistant coach Rodrigo Puebla. “So we go to Oklahoma and we play them and Oklahoma State, then Missouri will play them as well.”

Missouri doesn’t have a men’s tennis team and hasn’t won any championships in women’s.

The Aggies have won four tournament championships and one regular-season championship in men’s tennis. In women’s, they have won one regular-season championship and have won the tournament once as well.

“[Texas A&M is] good, they’re really good, and I think TCU is always really good, so it’s going to compensate; it’s not going to be any easier because they’re leaving,” said ISU senior Maria Fernanda Macedo. “And with Missouri, they are the match that we always have a chance to win, that we are supposed to win.”

The Mountaineers will assume the Tigers’ role as the Cyclones’ travel partner, so when Iowa State travels to Oklahoma to play Oklahoma State and Oklahoma, West Virginia will play those teams as well.

“The only problem I see with that is West Virginia being so far — I think you have to fly into Pittsburgh and then drive three or four hours,” Puebla said. “It is going to affect the way they travel for other teams.”

However, Puebla said it won’t affect anything budget-wise.

The teams coming and going also will affect other teams in the league as far as travel partners go as well.

Texas A&M is currently travel partners with Texas, but once the Aggies leave the Longhorns will be travel partners with Texas Tech while Baylor will be TCU’s new travel partner.

With TCU and West Virginia joining, the Big 12 will gain one top 75 program and another that is rebuilding. TCU is ranked No. 41 in the most recent poll in women’s tennis and just dropped out of the poll for men’s.

The TCU women’s tennis team has won three Mountain West regular-season championships along with three tournament championships, with the most recent coming in the 2008-09 season.

The TCU men’s tennis team is close behind with three conference tournament championships and two regular-season championships, with its most recent being the conference tournament in the 2009-10 season.

The West Virginia women’s tennis team is struggling this year, but Puebla said he thinks the Mountaineers can turn it around.

“There’s not going to be any changes on that part, but I bet you West Virginia is going to get better anyway,” Puebla said. “They can turn that program around in a year, they’re going to get better.”

Akin to Iowa State, West Virginia doesn’t have a men’s tennis team, so the total number of men’s tennis teams in the Big 12 will stay even at six, whereas for women it will stay at 10 teams.

“The conference realignment will affect us, but West Virginia, from what I’ve heard, isn’t as strong of a tennis school as Missouri or Texas A&M,” said ISU sophomore Emma Waites. “But TCU is pretty good, so it’ll be new competition, it’ll definitely be a challenge.”

Although the Big 12 will be losing two quality teams, there won’t be much of a drop-off in talent with the addition of TCU and West Virginia. With six of next year’s teams ranked in the top 75, the future of the conference looks bright.