Three Big Takeaways: Kezuka earns career conference record as Cyclones defeat Red Raiders


Daniel Jacobi II

The Iowa State tennis team huddles up before their matches against Drake University at the Roger Knapp Tennis Center on Jan. 14, 2023.

Iowa State tennis earned its sixth win in Big 12 conference play on Sunday afternoon, defeating the Texas Tech Red Raiders by a score of 4-1.

The No. 12 Cyclones were coming off of the heels of a history-making performance Friday when they swept 50th-ranked TCU 4-0 to record a record fifth win in the conference. Iowa State is now 16-4 overall, with two of those losses coming against nationally-ranked Texas and Oklahoma in Big 12 dual play.

Poor weather conditions in Ames, Iowa, forced the dual match to be moved to Life Time Fitness Center in Urbandale, Iowa.

The Cyclones’ win on Senior Day was highlighted by big wins from their upperclassmen, as they quickly charged out to a 3-0 lead after taking the doubles point and winning a pair of singles matches. Texas Tech answered with a singles win of their own, but Iowa State closed out thanks to a comeback win in the third set.

Iowa State’s ranked players went 2-1 across singles and doubles as they matched up against a Texas Tech squad that challenged at multiple spots in the individual matches.

Kezuka breaks conference wins record

Senior Chie Kezuka made history at the No. 6 singles spot, as her straight sets win over Arina Oreshchenkova put her first on the program’s all-time leaderboard for career conference wins.

Kezuka closed out her final home match in style by earning a 6-4, 6-1 win over Oreshchenkova. The Japanese women had a close battle on her hands in the first set, but was able to get a break and eventually win it.

The second frame was a different story, as Kezuka quickly built a lead and didn’t look back for the 6-1 decision. The win put Kezuka over former Cyclone Erin Karonis for the program record. Karonis was a First Team All-Big 12 selection for the Cyclones during her collegiate career and finished with 100 combined wins in singles and doubles.

Kezuka has been a history-maker for the Cyclones before, as she became the first player to win a Big 12 Singles title in 2022. She won that championship at the No. 5 singles spot and finished her junior year with an 18-1 record in dual play.

Kezuka’s win was complemented by another victory for the Cyclones on Court No. 2, as sophomore Ange Oby Kajuru increased the team score to 3-0 by winning her match. Kajuru, who is ranked 74th in the nation, completed a weekend sweep by taking down No. 122 Avelina Sayfetdinova in a three-setter, 2-6, 6-0, 6-4.

Kajuru fell in the opening set, as Sayfetdinova jumped out to an early lead. The Red Raider player won the first set, 6-2. Sayfetdinova was looking for her fifth consecutive win, as her most recent loss this season came against Oklahoma State’s Alana Wolfberg in mid-March.

The second set saw Kajuru provide a strong response, as she didn’t drop a game to post a 6-0 “bagel” on her opponent. It was the fifth time that Kajuru has given her opponent a 6-0 decision, including when she defeated Kansas’ Maria Titova 6-0, 6-0 to open the Big 12 dual season.

Kajuru and Sayfetdinova battled to an even draw to start the final set, but the Cyclone was able to pull away late to record her 22nd singles win of the season.

Cabezas completes comeback to clinch

On the No. 5 court, junior Sofa Cabezas came back from a set down to ultimately clinch the match for the Cyclones against Texas Tech’s Metka Komac. Cabezas lost the opening set by a 6-2 margin, but bounced back quickly in the second.

Building on an early lead, Cabezas was able to hold her serve and eventually win on a 6-3 scoreline. The Valencia, Venezuela native continued that momentum into the final frame, as she won it 6-4 to complete the comeback.

The win was the third time that Cabezas has clinched a match for the Cyclones this season, and she now owns a singles record of 20-8 on the season. The junior has won two matches over nationally-ranked competition this week as well and was briefly ranked in the national polls earlier this year.

Cabezas had the opportunity to close things out in Friday’s match against TCU, when she took on Horned Frogs sophomore Jade Otway. Cabezas won a tight opening set 6-4, but fell in the second 5-7. Her match was abandoned due to the Cyclones having clinched elsewhere, as sophomore Anna Supapitch Kuearum won at the No. 4 spot against TCU’s Destinee Martins.

Kadleckova, Cabezas break doubles record

For the 15th time this season, the Cyclones won the doubles point to establish the early lead. Iowa State is now 15-0 in dual matches where they outmatched their opponents in doubles play, and are a combined 20-6 at the No. 2 and 3 spots.

Cabezas and junior Miska Kadleckova recorded a school record of 27 doubles wins this season by defeating Camryn Stepp and Kate Dmitricheko, 6-4. The duo has had a multitude of successes together, qualifying for the ITA Fall National and NCAA Championships last season and finishing ranked within the top-100 in the nation.

This season, Cabezas and Kadleckova have primarily stuck to the No. 3 spot, where they’re 9-4, but also won two of their matches during the dual campaign on Court No. 2.

Freshman Xin Yi Nong and Kajuru took care of business in their match against the Red Raiders’ Olivia Peet and Cristina Tiglea. The Iowa State pairing, who are 57th in the national polls, recorded a 6-3 decision.

Peet would go on to provide the Red Raiders with their only win of the day, as she upset senior Thasaporn Naklo on Court No. 1. In doubles play, however, she and Tiglea, who were 9-5 in dual play before Sunday’s match, were put away by the offensive play-style combo of Nong and Kajuru.

Nong and Kajuru started their partnership at the beginning of 2023 and have become a mainstay at the No. 2 spot for the Cyclones. The duo now own a 10-2 record in dual play and are on a four-match winning streak.

Iowa State will have a final regular season game Tuesday, when they face off against West Virginia in Lawrence, Kansas. The match will be played at 4 pm.