Three Big Takeaways: Tigers control doubles, hand Cyclones 5-2 loss


Daniel Jacobi II

Thasaporn Naklo runs up towards the net to try and get to the ball during her match against Drake University at the Roger Knapp Tennis Center on Jan. 14, 2023.

Iowa State tennis lost their first dual match of the season, falling to Auburn on Friday. In a battle of nationally ranked programs, the No. 22 Cyclones fell to the No. 15 Tigers 5-2 at the Yarbrough Tennis Center in the inaugural meeting between the two schools.

Both teams featured multiple players and pairs currently part of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s national rankings. The dual was ultimately swung in favor of the side that won those ranked, head-to-head matches. In matches featuring two ranked opponents, the Tigers were 3-0.

Auburn struck early, taking care of both of the doubles matches to take the opening point of the meet. The Tigers would continue their winning trend into singles play, winning four out of the six matches to start off their season 1-0.

Kajuru and Kezuka fall in doubles

No. 17 doubles pairing Ange Oby Kajuru and Chie Kezuka were handed their first loss of the season, as they fell to the Tigers’ Ariana Arseneault and Carolyn Ansari 6-1.

The No. 10-ranked Auburn pair started off strong and did not take their foot off the gas to register the dual’s first victory in favor of the Tigers. Arseneault and Ansari were a potent pairing for Auburn last year, as they both posted double-digit win totals in doubles play to help their team make it to the last 16 of the NCAA Championships.

The loss was the first of the spring season for Kajuru and Kezuka, who entered the matchup with a 2-0 record to start the year. The pair went 7-2 during the fall season and became the third Cyclone duo to qualify for the ITA Fall National Championships. They have yet to register a win against a ranked opponent this season, now having gone 0-2.

For Arseneault and Ansari, the win marked their eighth win together this season, as they went 7-1 during the fall campaign. This match also marked the first time that they’ve teamed up this season. The duo is currently one of two pairs from the Southeastern Conference, along with LSU’s Anastasiya Komar and Nikita Vishwase, to be ranked in the top ten in the nation.

Iowa State tried to respond in the second doubles match, as Miska Kadleckova and Sofia Cabezas faced off against DJ Bennett and Kaitlyn Carnicella. Once again, the Tigers prevailed, as Bennett and Carnicella won 6-3 in what was both players’ first collegiate dual match.

The final match was ultimately disbanded, as Thasaporn Naklo and Anna Supapitch Kuearum conceded to Auburn’s Adeline Flach and Angella Okutoyi, 5-4. Like her teammates from the second match, Okutoyi was able to grab the victory in her first collegiate outing for the Tigers, as Auburn took the doubles point to get things started.

Naklo’s streak snaps in singles

Naklo ended the meet 0-2 as she also fell in the #1 singles match to Arseneault. Both players came into the match ranked within the top 100, and it was the No. 43-ranked Arseneault who won out 6-1, 6-2 for the opening victory.

Naklo had been on a nine-match winning streak across both singles and doubles heading into the meeting with Arseneault. The Thai had not lost a match to start 2023 and had swept the previous four dual matches against her opponents from Drake and South Dakota. She had also won all five of her matches in the Weinman Foundation Invitational in early January.

For Arseneault, the win was her fifth of the season against a ranked opponent, a stat in which she leads among her teammates.

Elsewhere, the wins kept coming for the Tigers, who again looked to their younger talent to supply the victories. No. 78 Bennett defeated No. 80 Kuearum 6-2, 6-3. Okutoyi upset No. 114-ranked Cabezas 6-3, 6-1 at #5 singles, and Flach took down Kezuka after a topsy-turvy couple of sets.

The Georgia native won the first set 7-5, but Kezuka charged back to tie things up in the second by the same scoreline. The match went to a “super set”, with the player who reached 10 points first being declared the victor. Flach was able to come out on top in another close set, winning 10-8.

Bright spots in singles

The Cyclones did have a couple of matches to hang their hats on for the day, as both Kajuru and Kadkeckova got revenge for their doubles losses by winning at #2 and #4 singles respectively.

Kajuru took on No. 71 Ansari at #2 singles, and came away with a 6-2, 6-2 win and ended her day at 1-1. The Tokyo native has been on a streak as of late in the singles game, having won her previous four matches prior to facing off against Ansari. The win was also her third against a ranked player this season. She now has 16 wins whilst playing in the No. 2 spot, with four more earning her a joint-fifth spot on the program’s all time leaderboard alongside Maty Cancini.

Kadleckova faced a battle in her match against Carnicella, as the freshman wouldn’t give an inch in her first dual singles match.

Like Kajuru, Kadleckova had prior experience in facing ranked opponents this year, as she had won three during the fall season. The highlight of those was a 6-5 win against Duke’s Georgia Drummy, ranked eighth in the nation.

Kadleckova took a close opening set 6-4, and seemed to have the momentum heading into second. That’s when Carnicella fought back, eventually sending the middle frame to a seventh game. After another tense tiebreak, the Auburn player was able to eventually even things up for the match, as she won the second set 7-6 (11-9).

Enter another super-set situation for the Cyclones, and Kadleckova was not about to make it 0-2 on the day. The Slovakia native produced the counterattack, this time by a 10-7 scoreline, to take the match and notch her third singles victory in a dual match this year.

The Cyclones will be on the road again for their next set of matches, as they will take on No. 16 UCLA and either Miami or Florida International at the Miami Invitational next weekend.