Three Big Takeaways: Cyclones record first road win ever against Bears


Daniel Jacobi II

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

Adarsh Tamma, Sports Reporter

Iowa State tennis wrapped up its first road trip of Big 12 play Sunday by sweeping No. 59 Baylor 4-0 in Waco, Texas. The Cyclones went 1-1 on the weekend overall, as they dropped Friday’s matchup against No. 14 Texas, 1-6.

The Cyclones, who are currently ranked sixth in the nation, now sit at a record of 11-3 in dual play, with the loss against the Longhorns being their first in the Big 12. Texas also got its revenge after Iowa State recorded a historic upset earlier in the season, shocking the then-top-ranked Longhorns in the quarterfinals of the ITA Indoor National Championships.

Iowa State had a strong bounce-back match against the Bears to cap off the weekend, and again made school history by defeating Baylor on the road for the first time in school history. The Cyclones also added their second-ever win against the Bears, taking victory over them for the first time in four years.

Both of the Cyclones’ matches were set by trends early on, as doubles play was key to the eventual outcome of both duals.

Doubles point denied

For the first time in four matches and fourth time this season, the Cyclones dropped the first point of the dual by losing two-out-of-three doubles matchups. Heading into Friday, Iowa State’s trend seemed to be that getting on the board early tended to result in wins. The Cyclones were 11-0 in duals where they took the doubles point and 1-2 when they lost it.

Texas came out firing and won at key spots to get things started. On court No. 2, the Longhorns struck first through No. 48-ranked pair Nicole Khirin and Marlee Zein, who won their fifth match of the season together by taking down the Cyclones’ Ange Oby Kajuru and Xinyi Nong, 6-3.

Kajuru and Nong had won both of their conference matches to start March, taking down pairings from Kansas and Kansas State by 6-1 scorelines. The duo took the first game of the frame, but could not find an offensive rhythm from then on, as Khirin and Zein took the next five games in a row.

The Iowa State pairing attempted to make a comeback by taking the next pair of games to make it 5-3. Khirin and Zein were unfazed and clinched the match by successfully breaking their opponents’ serve.

At the No. 3 spot, Texas was again on the attacking foot, as the pairing of junior Taisiya Pachkaleva and freshman Nicole Rivkin faced off against Miska Kadleckova and Sofia Cabezas. The Iowa State pairing qualified for the NCAA Championships last season, and was 11-4 going into Friday.

The match followed the same trend as the No. 2 spot, as the Iowa State duo took the first game, but Pachkaleva and Rivkin fought off the early deficit and took the next five games like their teammates. Kadleckova and Cabezas took the next game but did not get much further as the Longhorn duo held on to take the match, 6-2. Pachkaleva and Rivkin are now 10-4 on the season, including an 8-4 mark in dual play.

The No. 1 match went unfinished as Texas’ Charlotte Chavitipon and Sabina Zeynalova (No. 41) were on the brink of victory over 52nd-ranked Thasaporn Naklo and Anna Supapitch Kuearum, leading 5-3 when the doubles point was clinched. The No. 2 and 3 spots have been the backbone of the Cyclones’ success in doubles this season, as they had a combined record of 17-3 in their previous dual matches.

Kajuru and Kadleckova drop singles matches

Adding onto their wins in doubles, Texas continued their momentum into singles play. The Longhorns’ lead sprung up to 3-0 after Chavatipon and Zeynalova won their respective singles matches over Kadleckova and Kajuru.

At the No. 3 spot, 66th-ranked Chavatipon won the first singles match of the day over Kadleckova, who had lost just one match in dual play. The opening set was tight from the start and ended with both players holding their respective serves at 3-3.

Chavatipon was the first to break her opponent’s serve, taking the lead at 4-3. The Fullerton, California native closed out the first set by holding her serve in the next game, then breaking No. 96 Kadleckova again to win 6-3.

The second set had a similar tone, as the score went to 3-3 on strong service games by both players. Kadleckova was the first to break this time and jumped out to the 4-3 lead. Chavatipon responded in the very next game by producing a break of her own on Kadleckova’s service game. The final couple of games again saw a break-hold combo from Chavatipon, as she took a competitive match 6-3, 6-4 to record her 11th victory of the season.

No. 53 Kajuru also lost in her singles match at the No. 2 spot, falling in dual play for the first time this season. Kajuru had lost three matches in total before Friday’s dual. She and Kadleckova held a combined record of 25-2 in 2023.

Zeynalova, ranked 110th in the country, displayed a dominant display in her 6-1, 6-3 win over Kajuru. The Longhorn player raced ahead to a 3-0 lead in the opening frame, breaking Kajuru’s serve along the way to clinch the set. The second set was the same story, as Zeynalova built a 5-1 lead on her first set performance. Kajuru responded with a comeback attempt by winning the next two games, but Zeynalova closed the door by holding serve again to give the Longhorns a 3-0 lead in the dual.

Iowa State’s lone win on Friday was at the top spot, as No. 51 Naklo won against 76th-ranked Khirin 7-5, 3-6, 6-4. The Cyclones pushed all four of their remaining matches onto a third set, yet went 1-3 in those deciders.

Texas claimed victory on the No. 4 court, as Pachkaleva took down the sophomore Kuearum, 7-6, 6-7, 6-3. The Moscow native fought off a pair of tiebreakers in the first two sets to finally earn a few breaks in the decider to clinch victory for the Longhorns.

The third set saw Pachkaleva build up a 3-1 lead in the first set, breaking Kuearum’s serve in the third game. The next phase of the set was back-and-forth, as each player won a pair of games on service breaks, and Pachkaleva pushed her lead to a 5-3 scoreline. Pachkaleva held her serve for the final time in the last game, giving Kajuru her first loss in over a month.

Bounce-back against Bears

The Cyclones shook off their loss to Texas by then recording a clean sweep over Baylor on Sunday. Iowa State did not drop a set in their six victories across singles and doubles, winning a total of 31 games.

Doubles play saw Iowa State contest a couple of tight battles on the No. 2 and 3 courts. Kajuru and Nong were stuck in with Isabella Harvison and Anita Sahdiieva at 6-6, but the match was declared unfinished due to Iowa State victories elsewhere.

Kadleckova and Cabezas rebounded from their loss against Texas by defeating Alina Shcherbinina and Brooke Thompson on a 7-5 scoreline after breaking their opponents late in the match. 

In singles, Iowa State got wins from its No. 3, 4 and 5 spots. Kadleckova finished her weekend with a 2-2 record by registering her 24th victory of the season. The Slovakia native won comfortably in straight sets, 6-2, 6-3.

Cabezas opened singles play by recording her third win in the conference. The junior left little doubt in her victory, beating Daniella Dimitrov 6-0, 6-1 on an opening set bagel. Cabezas now sits at a record of 11-6 in 2023.

Kuearum clinched a dual for the first time this season, taking down Liubov Kostenko 6-2, 6-4. The Cyclones went 2-1 in the remainder of their matches, with Kajuru and Kezuka claiming victories while Naklo finished the weekend 0-2 in singles play. Baylor’s Shcherbinina won her fifth match of the season, dismissing her opponent 7-5, 6-2 in straight sets.