TENNIS: Big 12 Conference wins establish ISU presence

ISU junior Erin Karonis plays against Missouri on March 12 at Ames Racquet and Fitness. The Cyclones won the meet. Photo: Manfred Brugger/Iowa State Daily

ISU junior Erin Karonis plays against Missouri on March 12 at Ames Racquet and Fitness. The Cyclones won the meet. Photo: Manfred Brugger/Iowa State Daily

Dan Tracy —

After six months on the road and a schedule chalk full of ranked opponents, the 5–6 Cyclones returned home last week for a full slate of home matches, the team’s first home matches of the season. Despite the many road trips, coach Armando Espinosa knew the tough competition which included six opponents ranked in the top 75 nationally would help the team as they settled into the Big 12 conference schedule. The team hosted four matches over Spring Break against Missouri, Colorado, Cleveland State and South Dakota and won all four, bouncing back after four consecutive losses.

“The biggest thing was the [non-conference] schedule,” Espinosa said of the team’s win streak. “It certainly helped out a lot.”

On March 12, the team squared off against the Missouri Tigers (3–6) in their second Big 12 match of the season.

After dropping the doubles point, the Cyclones rallied back late in the match with a three-set 6–3, 2–6, 6–4 victory from freshman Jenna Langhorst over Missouri’s Maria Christensen at No. 4 singles. Then a 6–4, 7–6 (16–14) tiebreaker victory from sophomore Marie-Christine Chartier brought the match to a 3–3 tie with only the No. 6 singles match remaining. In the singles finale, junior Liza Wischer took the first set 6–2 against Andrea Lewis, but dropped the second 7–5. After being down 5–2 in the third, Wischer came back to win the final set 7–5, clinching the 4–3 victory for the Cyclones. The win was the first over the Tigers since 2002 and also only the second Big 12 victory for the Cyclones since 2002.

Espinosa believed that because it was the first time the team hosted a match this season, the home court advantage worked in the Cyclones’ favor.

“The girls were out there to play and really wanted to do well in front of the fans,” Espinosa said.

On Sunday, the Cyclones faced their seventh ranked opponent of the season in No. 52 Colorado. The team was searching for their first victory over a ranked opponent this season.

Iowa State started strong by winning the doubles point after victories from the sophomore pair of Maria Macedo and Tessa Lang and the pair of Wischer and senior Alyssa Palen.

In singles, junior Erin Karonis upset No. 109 Melisa Esposito 2–6, 6–4, 6–3 and once again Chartier and Wischer sealed the 5–2 Iowa State victory with wins at No. 5 and No. 6 singles. The two Big 12 wins is tied for the most in school history with the other multi-win season coming in 2001. Espinosa hopes his team can build on their early success for the rest of the season.

“Its exciting for them but I don’t think they are satisfied with just the two wins,” Espinosa said. “It sends out a message to the Big 12 that we aren’t a walk over anymore.”

With a successful beginning to the spring season, the Cyclones find themselves nationally ranked for the first time since 2002 when they were ranked No. 68. In the Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings which came out last Tuesday, the Cyclones were ranked No. 66 nationally.

The Cyclones wrapped up their non-conference schedule for the season with two home matches on Thursday against Cleveland State and South Dakota.

Against Cleveland State, the Cyclones were led by Macedo and Lang who helped seal the doubles point with a 8–4 victory over Nicole Janek and Maria Lazaris and each won their singles matches en route to the Cyclones 6–1 victory.

The team finished off Thursday with another convincing win, a 7–0 sweep of visiting South Dakota. Lang, Wischer and Palen all posted 6–0, 6–0 victories over their opponents in singles as the Cyclones did not drop a single set in their victory.

The No. 66 Cyclones 9–6 (2–1) will gear up for a pair of matches this weekend in Kansas when they will travel to Lawrence on Friday to face Kansas 8–6 (0–2) and to Manhattan on Sunday to play Kansas State 3–7 (0–2).