Three Big Takeaways: Saia reaches 50-win mark in Cyclone sweep


Daniel Jacobi II

Miska Kadleckova scrapes the ground with her racket, barely getting it underneath the ball during her singles match against Drake University at the Roger Knapp Tennis Center on Jan. 14, 2023.

Adarsh Tamma, Sports Reporter

The Iowa State tennis team recorded a sweep this weekend with a pair of shutout wins against Mississippi State and Memphis in Starkville, Mississippi.

The No. 14 Cyclones (6-1, 0-0 Big 12) first defeated Mississippi State 7-0 on Friday and then took down Memphis 4-0 on Saturday to win their fourth straight dual match on the road. The win against the Bulldogs was the Cyclones’ first in the inaugural meeting between both schools and snapped a 59-match home winning streak against non-conference opponents.

Across the 11 matches played over the weekend, the Cyclones went 10-1 and recorded their second-straight sweep after upsetting both UCLA and Miami last weekend at the ITA Kickoff event. The Cyclones were highlighted by strong individual performances from both their newcomers and veterans and set a milestone for their head coach in the process.

Saia reaches 50 career wins

In the 7-0 win against Mississippi State, Boomer Saia recorded his 50th career victory as head coach of Iowa State. Saia is now the fourth coach in program history to reach that milestone, joining his predecessor Armando Espinosa. He is now also the fastest to reach a half-century of wins in 83 matches coached so far, overtaking Jim Doerr’s record of 92.

In his tenure as head coach, Saia has seen the Cyclones make history, as they reached the NCAA Championships in 2021 for the first time ever and repeated the feat last season. His teams have recorded 13 wins over the past five years against ranked teams, with the victory over the then-No. 10 Hurricanes being the highest-ranked upset in school history. Saia has virtually coached the same players with which he’s achieved all of these successes over the last two years, and they were able to take care of business against Mississippi State.

Starting off in doubles, the Cyclones were able to put the first point on the board by winning all three matches. Juniors Miska Kadleckova and Sofia Cabezas won 6-3 at No. 3 doubles, with Thasaporn Naklo and Xinyi Nong closing things out in the No. 2 spot 6-2.

In the singles, Iowa State dominated the top-level matches to build to their team score, as both Naklo and Ange Oby Kajuru won their respective matches to make the score 3-0. The Cyclones went on to close out the match as Chie Kezuka won her No. 6 match 6-7, 6-4, 10-5 against Emily Surcey.

Kadleckova and Kajuru control singles

Iowa State was once again highlighted in singles by the continued strong play of Kadleckova and Kajuru. Both players are currently on a winning streak in singles play and made quick work of their opponents in the dual matches.

Kadleckova reached a new milestone last week by becoming the third Cyclone player this season to record 100 career victories, along with Naklo and Kezuka. The Slovakia native has won over 70% of her matches for Iowa State, and she is now on a nine-match winning streak.

Ange Oby Kajuru prepares to receive the ball during her match against Drake University at the Roger Knapp Tennis Center on Jan. 14, 2023. (Daniel Jacobi II)

Against Mississippi State’s Chloe Cirotte, Kadleckova won a tight first set by a score of 7-5 but then opened the match wide open in the second frame to take it 6-1. The next day against Memphis’ Monique Woog, Kadleckova won by a more convincing 6-2, 6-0 scoreline, with the match also moving her up to 13th on the program’s all-time wins list.

Kajuru has also posted impressive results in singles, as she came into the weekend having won her last three matches against a nationally-ranked opponent. The Japanese native leads the team with a combined five victories against a ranked player or pairs so far this season, and she entered the weekend on a seven-match roll.

Playing at No. 2 singles in both duals, Kajuru beat the Bulldogs’ Gia Cohen 6-0, 6-1 in the first match to finish to add to her doubles victory. In the match against Memphis, she was again dominant, taking the first set 6-2 and controlling the second by a score of 5-0. Her match was ultimately unfinished, as the Cyclones had already clinched victory over the Tigers while her match was still in progress. She and Kezuka were upset by Emily Meyer and Aran Garcia 2-6 in the top card singles spot.

Nong, Kuearum step up with big wins

Xinyi Nong and Anna Supapitch Kuearum were both successful for Iowa State in singles and doubles as they continued to add wins to their young collegiate careers.

Nong is the Cyclones’ newest recruit, having joined the team at the start of this year after playing junior tennis in her native China. In her first match as a Cyclone, she beat Selena Bird of South Dakota 6-0, 6-0.

Nong started off strong against Mississippi State, as she and Kajuru clinched the doubles point for the Cyclones by winning 6-2 against Alexandra Mikhailuk and Maria Rizzolo. The match against the Tigers saw her once again put points on the board for Iowa State, as she and Kadleckova confirmed the doubles point by defeating Carlota Farres Carreter and Miriam Grossman 6-3. In singles, she again defeated Grossman by a score of 6-4, 6-1 to improve her record to 4-0.

Kuearum is one of three Cyclone singles players to be ranked in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s national rankings. Currently listed at 80th on the list, Kuearum has one win against a ranked opponent, as she took down Oklahoma State’s then-No. 80 Kristina Novak during the fall season.

Kuearum was one of Iowa State’s go-to players in the doubles game, as she and partner Naklo recorded its first win against Memphis against Camila Soares and Monique Woog 6-0. The pairing is now the Cyclones’ most successful duo this season, owning a perfect 11-0 record. In singles, Kuearum was leading against Emily Meyer 6-2, 5-2 when the dual was clinched for Iowa State.

The day prior against Mississippi State, Kuearum and Naklo were up 5-4 when her match once again went unfinished due to the Cyclones have won the doubles point. In singles, she recorded her first victory of the spring season when she beat Alexandra Mihailuk 7-6, 6-2. She had previously gone 0-3 in dual play.

Iowa State will be back on the court Friday when they travel to the Nordstrom Tennis Center in Seattle to play in the ITA Indoor National Championships.