TENNIS: Iowa State continues Big 12 play in Kansas

Marie-Christine Chartier plays on March 12 at Ames Racquet and Fitness, 320 S. 17th St. Chartier won both singles matches against Big 12 rivals Missouri and Colorado. Photo: Manfred Brugger/Iowa State Daily

Dan Tracy —

For a program that came into this season winning only seven Big 12 matches since 1997 and still carrying the notoriety of its 79 match losing streak in Big 12 play from 2002–’09, the Cyclones are on the brink of what may be the best season in program history.

“We knew coming into the spring that we were going to try and be better than we were in the fall,” said coach Armando Espinosa. “Even though we are getting better, we still carry a stigma [as the worst team in the Big 12].”

The Cyclones took a giant step in replacing that stigma with victories over Big 12 opponents Missouri and No. 52 Colorado last weekend. The two Big 12 wins earned the Cyclones 9–6 (2–1 Big 12) a No. 66 national ranking, their first berth into the ITA national rankings since 2002.

Not only did the two Big 12 wins match the most any Cyclone team has won, it also inspired an elevation of the team’s goals for this season. With the national tournament a month and a half away, the Cyclones are setting their sights on an at-large bid in the 64-team national tournament.

“It’s just really good motivation to keep our work up; we have what it takes to take a big step and we are working hard,” said sophomore Marie-Christine Chartier.

Playing at the No. 5 singles position, Chartier leads the Cyclones, along with junior Erin Karonis, in wins this season with nine. Chartier, who already has two Big 12 wins on the season, hopes to eclipse her previous amount of three wins last season.

Chartier and the rest of the team will spend another weekend on the road with matches against Kansas 8–6 (0–2) and Kansas State 3–7 (0–2). Both teams lost their Big 12 opening matches to Texas and Texas A&M last weekend. Although both teams are unranked, Espinosa sees them both as “very dangerous teams.”

“It’s been a while since we have beaten any of the Big 12 teams, so [Kansas or Kansas State] don’t want to be another team in our win column,” Espinosa said.

Last season the Cyclones ended their 79-match losing streak against Big 12 opponents with a come-from-behind 4–3 victory at home. The next day, after winning the doubles point against the Jayhawks, Kansas rallied to a 5–2 victory. Both Kansas and Kansas State will be looking for their first Big 12 victories of the season while the Cyclones will be looking to pick up their third Big 12 victory for the first time in program history.“They are going to come in fired up,” Espinosa said. “Nobody wants to have the reputation of losing to the worst team in the Big 12, which we were. We aren’t a walk-over [team] anymore.”

Iowa State will play Kansas at 2 p.m. Friday and Kansas State at 1 p.m. Sunday.