TENNIS: Cyclones host first matches of the season

Dan Tracy —

While many college students are filled with excitement for spring break trips to warmer climates, the ISU tennis team, on the other hand, is excited to stay in Ames for a weekend.

After criss-crossing the country the past six months from Florida to Virginia to Texas and all around the Midwest, the Cyclones will finally get a chance to play in the friendly confines of the South Ames Racquet and Fitness Center when they host Missouri and Colorado this weekend.

“It’s going to make a difference playing at home for the first time and it will certainly be nice for the girls to spend a weekend at home,” coach Armando Espinosa said.

With the ISU men’s basketball team in Kansas City for the Big 12 Conference Tournament, interestingly, Espinosa sees similarities with this weekend and last year at this time when the Cyclones snapped their 79-match losing streak in Big 12 play with a 4–3 home win over Kansas State.

“It was the second match of the Big 12 [tennis] season, the [men’s] basketball team was on the road at Big 12’s and so I’m hoping [the team can win] again,” Espinosa said.

In the first match of the weekend, the Cyclones will host the Missouri Tigers 3–6. The Tigers are coming off of a 5–2 loss to Iowa on Saturday and are currently on a three match losing streak. The Cyclones were also defeated by the Hawkeyes 7–0 on Feb. 21.

“Missouri’s a good team,” Espinosa said. “We lost to them 4–3 last year, they are coming off the loss to Iowa 5–2 so it’s not going to be a walk in the park.”

The Cyclones will face their seventh ranked opponent of the season on Sunday in the No. 52 Buffaloes who are currently 7–3 overall. With the release of the latest Intercollegiate Tennis Association National Rankings on Tuesday, all six of the Cyclones losses have been to opponents currently ranked in the top 75 nationally.

Espinosa is hoping the team can reverse those fortunes against Colorado which already has four victories over ranked opponents this season.

“[Colorado] is going to be a little deeper than they were last year,” Espinosa said. “They are going to be very dangerous.”

Against Colorado, the Cyclones will play the singles matches first, which Espinosa hopes will take the pressure off of the three doubles pairings which are 1–11 over the team’s four match losing streak.

“With the singles, we may have a chance to get some momentum going where our doubles hasn’t been the best,” Espinosa said.

Alternating between the No. 2 and No. 3 doubles position is the sophomore tandem of Tessa Lang and Maria Macedo. Despite Lang and Macedo’s 3–6 record this spring, Lang is hoping to capitalize on the tough competition that the pair has faced over the past two weekends to prepare them for competition in the Big 12.

“I think we have made a lot of steps over the last few weeks, we have gotten a little more consistent than we used to and we’ve learned a lot over the past few weeks with playing some tough teams,” Lang said.

With spring break next week, Espinosa and Lang are both anticipating many of the players’ families to be in attendance to watch the team host its first matches of the season.

“To have the courts that we are used to and the fans cheering for us, I think it’s going to be quite an experience having a match at home,” Lang said.

Along with the release of the national rankings came individual accolades for one Cyclone. Junior Erin Karonis earned recognition in the ITA Central Region rankings for the first time this season, coming in at eighth place in singles. The returning All-Big 12 performer is currently 6–5 at No. 1 singles and 5–6 at No. 1 doubles with freshman Jenna Langhorst.

The Cyclones will play Missouri at 2 p.m. Friday and Colorado at 8:30 p.m. Sunday.