No. 12 Cyclones earn record-breaking Big 12 win


Daniel Jacobi II

Thasaporn Naklo gets into position as her teammate serves the ball during their match against Drake University at the Roger Knapp Tennis Center on Jan. 14, 2023.

Adarsh Tamma, Sports Reporter

Iowa State tennis captured another conference win on Friday afternoon, as they swept No. 50 TCU, 4-0 to improve to a record of 15-4. The Cyclones made history at the Ames High School tennis courts by earning a program record fifth win in Big 12 Conference play.

The No. 12 Cyclones, who are now 5-2 in the Big 12, took down their eighth top-50 opponent of the season in the Horned Frogs. The Cyclones took control of the match early by winning the doubles point, their 14th of the season, and won a trio of matches at the No. 1, 2 and 4 spots to clinch the victory.

Friday’s match was also the first time that the Cyclones got to play in front of their home fans all season. The Cyclones have spent the majority of this year on the road, with 16 of their 19 matches having been played on either opposing courts or at neutral sites.

“It’s a glorious feeling,” head coach Boomer Saia said on playing in front of the home fans. “To be home, in front of your fans here in Ames, it means a lot to our team. We’ve been on the road almost this whole entire season, so to have some matches here in Ames, and to play in front of people who have supported us and followed along, it means a lot.”

Sophomore Anna Supapitch Kuearum also spoke of having the home crowd cheer her on.

“I invited my Thai friend, and I was really shy [about playing in front of the fans],” Kuearum said. “Because normally, we don’t have many people come out and watch us. I feel like I was a little bit nervous too to have people come, but [I want to say] thank you to them for supporting us.”

Kuearum provided the final touch for her team, winning her singles match at the No. 4 spot and earning her 19th victory of the season. She has now clinched three matches for the Cyclones this season, one of three players on the squad to have triple in that category.

The Cyclones got things going early on in doubles, as juniors Miska Kadleckova and Sofia Cabezas took down the Horned Frogs’ pairing of Destinee Martins and Helena Narmont by a score of 6-3.

The doubles point was quickly clinched thereafter, as sophomore Ange Oby Kajuru and freshman Xinyi Nong defended their No. 57 ranking against Jade Otway and Mercedes Aristegui. The Iowa State pair took control of the match early and pulled away for a 6-2 win.

The matches on the court were affected by both the hard-hitting style of both teams as well as the elements, something that Saia congratulated his team on being able to handle.

“We prepared really well this week, and I was proud of our group,” Saia said. “It’s not easy playing with that kind of wind, [but] it started to die down. But ultimately, I think we did a great job playing our own styles, being really patient, and earning each point. It kind of goes back to that mindset of whether your opponent is playing big or not, ‘how do you find to put one more ball into play and give yourself a chance to play your style?’ We did a really good job, but there was a lot of talent out there on court today.”

In singles, the Cyclones again got on the board first through Thasaporn Naklo on the No. 1 court. The senior got her 20th win on the season by defeating TCU’s Tiphanie Lemaitre 6-3, 6-2. The No. 56-ranked player in the country also has 12 career conference singles wins. 

Naklo’s win also put her within the top five of career wins in program history. “Tau” as she is called by her teammates, and coaching staff, now has 138 wins all-time as a Cyclone across singles and doubles play.

“I think recently, I’ve gotten used to playing against the wind a bit more,” Naklo said. “So, I tried to feel where the wind was blowing. If it fell to one side, I tried to control the ball, or if it fell to another, I tried to hit harder. I tried to manage with the wind.”

Naklo also talked about the pace of play that she had to face when receiving serve, particularly some of the tactics that Saia and the coaching staff talked with her about.

“I think Boomer has always told me to just stay low,” Naklo said on facing a tough server, “Just to stay in the [doubles] lane and hit [on the side].”

On Court 2, 74th-ranked Ange Oby Kajuru extended her strong singles play by defeating No. 115 Aristegui in straight sets, 7-5, 6-4. The Japanese faced tight competition in both sets, as Aristegui challenged at multiple spots. Kajuru’s win was her 22nd of the season, with her and Kadleckova now owning a combined 83% winning percentage in dual play.

With four matches left on court, Kuearum sealed the deal for Iowa State by taking down Martins in a straight-sets win. Martins came to TCU at the beginning of this year from Tyler Junior College, where she won the NJCAA individual championships in both singles and doubles.

Kuearum won the first set on a tiebreak, 7-6, but found herself facing a 5-2 deficit. The sophomore battled back however, breaking her opponent’s a few times along the way to rattle off five straight games of her own.

Kuearum talked about that final shot to clinch the match, a smash towards the side of the court, and how she was able to overcome blowing a lead in that final game.

“So I was 30-0 up, and then I missed three returns in a row,” Kuearum said. “Because I was really nervous, and then in the last point, [I was thinking], ‘If I miss, it’s okay because I still have the next game [to play].’ I thought that I will just do my best, run anywhere and everywhere I can [to win the point].”

Saia summed up the fight that his team put up across the board, talking about how they were able to bounce back from tough situations.

“[In] this league, it’s really hard to find wins,” Saia said. “A lot of credit goes to TCU. Every court, they just kept fighting. It’s tough to find four points in this league, so I was really proud of our responses. Anna was down 5-2 in the second, responded really well, Miska lost the first set, went up in the third, so you just have great, great responses.”

The Cyclones will close out the home weekend on Sunday when they take on No. 35 Texas Tech. The match is expected to start at noon.