TENNIS: A familiar foe, A familiar place

Dan Tracy

The setting will be different, but the situation will be similar for the Cyclones on Thursday when they take the court with No. 58 Oklahoma State for the first round of the Big 12 Conference Tournament. Both teams will be only six days removed from their last meeting when Oklahoma State (12-9, 5-6 in Big 12) won its third consecutive Big 12 match in a 5-2 victory. This match will also mark the third time in the last four years that the teams will play each other in the opening round of the Big 12 tournament. The Cowgirls beat the Cyclones 4-0 in 2007 and 4-1 last season.

“They are very talented, they can come out and beat you badly but they are streaky,” said coach Armando Espinosa. “If we put the pressure on them early I think we can control the match and take it from there.”

In the meeting Friday, Iowa State (9-14, 2-9) lost two singles matches in the third set and were unable to recover, falling 5-2.

The two victories for the Cyclones came from No. 2 singles player sophomore Maria Macedo and Liza Wischer at No. 6 singles. Macedo leads the team this season with 20 singles victories and is followed closely by Wischer with 18. Wischer defeated OSU’s Alexandra Cristello 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 and is looking forward to another chance to play the freshman from Ontario, Canada.

“I’m excited because I know how she plays, I think it will be a good match-up,” Wischer said.

Junior Erin Karonis has struggled to pull out a victory at No. 1 doubles as of late, but knows that with the right chances she and her team can reverse their losing ways.

“We’re really excited to play them again, there’s something about their game style,” Karonis said. “We came so close but we’ll have our chances if we come out and play well.”

Battling into three consecutive three-set matches, Karonis will use those close losses, which includes a 6-1, 4-6, 6-2 loss to OSU’s Nataliya Shatkovskaya, to motivate her this weekend.

“It’s frustrating playing three-setters and not pulling it out and it definitely gives me more incentive to win,” Karonis said.

Both Karonis and Wischer have been on two previous teams that have left the Big 12 tournament with a loss but both feel that this year’s team has the best chance to give Iowa State its first Big 12 tournament victory.

“This is probably the best chance this year, we have the depth and I think overall our team has improved a lot this year,” Wischer said.

The Cowgirls’ squad is led by Sarah Meghoufel who is 9-2 at No. 4 singles and 6-5 Malika Rose at No. 5 singles. Meghoufel and Rose will face off against ISU freshman Jenna Langhorst and sophomore Marie-Christine Chartier in singles. Langhorst fell to Meghoufel 6-2, 6-0 on Friday and Chartier lost a three-set tiebreaker 6-0, 4-6, 7-6 (10-6) to Rose.

Espinosa said that a key for his team will be securing the doubles point, something they haven’t done in its last six matches.

“We need to get a better start, when we played them we just didn’t start well and our doubles suffered,” Espinosa said.

On the doubles court, Macedo and fellow sophomore Tessa Lang have put together the best Big 12 season for any doubles pair in ISU program history at 7-4 this season.

Oklahoma State is one of seven Big 12 teams that Iowa State has never beaten as the Cowgirls are 34-0 now against the Cyclones, but Espinosa, in his second year as head coach, has seen a different mentality from his team as they prepare to play in Austin on Thursday.

“My mentality hasn’t changed but the mentality of the team is a bit different,” Espinosa said. “The girls really feel like we can win and they have a good attitude.”

The winner of Thursday’s match will take on No. 2 seed Texas in the quarterfinals at 3 p.m. Friday.