Cyclones list new doubles pairings ahead of ITA Regionals


Jacob Rice

Members of the Iowa State tennis team huddle together during the Cyclones’ match against the Oklahoma Sooners April 8.

The postseason puzzle will begin to be solved for the Iowa State tennis team as they take on the ITA Regionals this weekend in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

It has been a whirlwind of the past few weeks for the Cyclone ladies, with many of their athletes split ways across the country. From North Carolina to California, from Chicago to Hilton Head, Iowa State competed at a variety of professional and collegiate tournaments.

One of the more recent of these was the ITA All-American Championships in Cary, North Carolina. Six of the seven Cyclone players were in action and came away with an overall record of 10-7 across the singles and doubles disciplines. Iowa State also produced multiple wins at both the Cal Fall and Northwestern Invitationals.

“It’s been fun to watch, being able to watch our kids out at All-Americans, whether it was the tournament in Chicago or San Francisco before that,” said head coach Boomer Saia on the Cyclones’ recent performances. “Our kids have competed really well, so that’s actually been a fun thing to see as a coach. I do feel like we’re taking steps forward in those areas and giving ourselves chances against whoever we might play.”

That “whoever” had a certain level of impact at the ITA All-American Championships, where the Cyclones faced up against some of the best talent in collegiate tennis. Iowa State was highlighted by a pair of victories across singles and doubles.

Senior Thasaporn Naklo made history on the opening day of the championships when she recorded her 100th collegiate victory against Florida State’s Mila Saric. Naklo defeated the No. 75 ranked Seminole player in straight sets, 6-1, 7-5, to become the 17th Iowa State player to reach the 100-win milestone.

Naklo spoke on the difficulties of playing against Saric, whom she called “a grinder.”

“Usually, I don’t really like that style [of play],” Naklo said of her opponent. “So, it felt good to win that match.”

This week, Naklo will be back on the singles courts again, as well as pairing up with fellow singles ace Sofia Cabezas in the doubles discipline. The Valencia, Venezuela, native had a strong outing at the Northwestern Invitational this past weekend as she posted an undefeated record in her singles matches (3-0).

Cabezas, Chie Kezuka and Anna Supapitch Kuearum combined for a record of 8-1 over the weekend in Evanston, Illinois. For her performances, Cabezas was awarded the Cyclone Club’s Student Athlete of the Week.

In terms of playing with her new partner Naklo, Cabezas seemed excited about the opportunity.

“Her return, it’s pretty solid, and she’s great from the back,” Cabezas said on Naklo’s strengths in the doubles game. “I think that she can move pretty well in the volleys too, so I’m very excited to play with her.”

All of the Cyclones have been through the revolving door that is a doubles partnership, it seems, with the coaching staff mixing up combinations from one tournament to the next. Besides Naklo and Cabezas, Kezuka and Ange Oby Kajuru will be partnering up for the first time this weekend, as well as Miska Kadleckova and Kuearum.

Kadleckova had a breakthrough at the ITA All-American tournament, as she and her partner Kajuru were the only Cyclone players to reach the main draw of their event. The pair went 2-1 in the qualifying draw, then upset Syracuse’s No. 11 seeds Miyuka Kimoto and Polina Kozyerva 7-6, 6-1 in the round of 32.

When asked why he didn’t keep Kadleckova and Kajuru together for the regional tournament, Saia said that they are pairing “that we would strongly look at for spring.”

“It’s kind of been my philosophy this fall, regardless of how some of those results are, to get the best out of, say, data and sample size,” Saia said on his decision-making of doubles pairings. “I think that was a huge notch on their belt, so they’re definitely not going to be forgotten come springtime. But I also want to view a few other combos to see what those might look like.”

Both Naklo and Cabezas also voiced approval of the mixing up of doubles pairings by the coaching staff.

“I think it’s good for us to try [to play with] new partners,” Naklo said of the changes. “Maybe we can see that I match with this person more or that person more.”

“It’s been interesting, but I think that it’s going to be good for the team,” Cabezas said. “I feel like you have to be able to adjust to everyone’s game style and get out of our comfort zone.”

The ITA Regionals will also be the first time that the Cyclones take all seven of their players to a single tournament. This will include the season debut of Christin Hsieh, who will be playing in the singles draw. 

Hsieh posted a 6-6 record in singles last season and 22-14 in doubles, with a majority of the latter spent playing in the doubles spot alongside Naklo. The pair, along with Cabezas and Kadleckova, became the first two Iowa State doubles duos to reach the ITA Fall National Championships last season when they faced each other in the regional final in Iowa City. Cabezas and Kadleckova won that match, 7-5, 4-6, 10-3.

For Naklo, Cabezas, or any other Cyclone player to automatically qualify for the Fall National Championships, they must reach the final of their respective events, as 24 of the 32 spots in both the singles and doubles draws are given to the winners and runners-up of each region’s tournament. The remaining eight are given to the winner and runner-up of the All-American tournament (2), at-large selections (3), ITA wild cards (2) and an ITA Cup Wild Card.

The postseason party will kick off Thursday at the Greenwood Tennis Center in Stillwater. Live updates of the ITA Regionals will also be available here.