Three Big Takeaways: Iowa State earns No. 3 seed, sweeps Mountaineers


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

The Iowa State tennis team earned a key win Tuesday afternoon, sweeping the Mountaineers 4-0 to wrap up its final regular season match.

The No. 11 Cyclones came into the match in Lawrence, Kansas, needing a win in order to get the No. 3 seed in the Big 12 Tournament, scheduled to take place later in the same week at Kansas’ home courts. A win meant the team finished on par with Oklahoma State in terms of win-loss records (7-2) but broke the tie by virtue of beating the Cowgirls earlier this season.

Iowa State started out strong from the jump, as the top half of its lineup provided wins all the way through. The Cyclones went 2-0 in doubles play thanks to wins from their top two pairs and then swept the Mountaineers by getting victories at the top-three matches in singles.

Cyclones roll in doubles

Senior Thasaporn Naklo and sophomore Anna Supapitch Kuearum put the first points on the board for the Cyclones by winning their doubles match on the No. 1 Court.

The duo, who are ranked 52nd in the nation, came into Tuesday’s matchup with a 7-4 record, having won just one match in Big 12 dual-match play. Naklo and Kuearum’s previous two matches both went unfinished, as they were tied up at 5-5 against pairs from TCU and Texas Tech in the final two home matches of the weekend.

Against West Virginia’s Camilla Bossi and Ting-Pei Chang, Naklo and Kuearum raced out to an early lead and were able to protect it. 

The pair recorded a shutout, 6-0 victory over the Mountaineers, marking the second time this season that they didn’t drop a game en route to victory. Naklo and Kuearum served a “bagel” against Memphis’ Camila Soares and Monique Woog back in February, when the Cyclones defeated the Tigers 4-0.

Naklo now has 67 career doubles victories for the Cyclones, which puts her sixth on the program’s all-time leaderboard in that category. In her final run as a Cyclone, she also broke her tie with Sarah Berres by surpassing 138 career victories across singles and doubles.

The Cyclones turned to their other ranked doubles pair to clinch the doubles point, as sophomore Ange Oby Kajuru and freshman Xin Yi Nong got the win. Playing on court No. 2 for the 13th time this season, 74th-ranked Kajuru and Nong earned their 11th win together, taking the match by a 7-5 scoreline against Michaela Kucharova and Momoko Nagato.

Since joining the Cyclones’ roster in January, Nong has been a source of success for Iowa State’s doubles play, having lost just twice with her partner Kajuru. Nong is also 2-0 in singles, winning her matches against South Dakota’s Selena Bird and Miriam Grosmann of Memphis, both of which resulted in team victories.

Tuesday marked the 16th time that Iowa State has clinched the doubles point this season, as they continued its streak of never losing a dual match when putting the first points on the board. The Cyclones are only 1-4 when losing the doubles point to start out the match.

Cyclones go 1-2-3 in singles

Kajuru continued her winning ways from doubles play to improve her win-loss record to 16-3. She had little trouble against Chang, wrapping up the victory 6-1, 6-0.

Earlier Tuesday, Kajuru earned the final Big 12 Player of the Week award for the regular season, marking the second time this year and fourth time overall that she has won it. In her 19 singles matches during the dual season, she has gone 7-3 against nationally-ranked competition. Kajuru herself spent the entirety of this year in the national rankings, checking in at 78th in the latest poll published by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Tuesday.

Kajuru and junior Miska Kadleckova have been a strong tandem for Iowa State at the No. 2 and 3 spots respectively, as the latter also earned win No. 16 Tuesday. Kadleckova opened things up for the Cyclones by winning 6-1, 6-0 over Kucharova. She won a total of 26 singles matches for Iowa State dating back to the fall season and is now tied for fourth alongside Kajuru in terms of number of single-season victories.

Naklo closed out the afternoon for her team and reached a few mile markers as well. With a 6-0, 6-3 win over Bossi, Naklo earned her 140th career victory as an Iowa State player, as well as her 73rd in singles play.

Both of those achievements rank Naklo within the top-five in school history on their respective lists, as she also has 13 career wins in conference play. Naklo made major history last year when she became the first singles player in program history to qualify for the NCAA Individual Championships.

As a trio, Naklo, Kajuru and Kadleckova each getting wins have trended into overall success for Iowa State over the course of this year. The Cyclones only lost once when losing at either the No. 1, 2 or 3 spots, and have a 14-1 advantage on court No. 2 specifically. Together, the trio has a combined singles record of 32-13 this season.

Sweeping the competition

The Cyclones’ 4-0 win over the Mountaineers marked the seventh time this season that they haven’t allowed their opponents to win a match. That figure is a program record, as this year’s team was in a tie with last year’s with six sweeps over the course of the season.

This season marks the first time since the 1984-85 that Iowa State posted a winning record no matter where it played. The Cyclones are now 17-4 on the year, surpassing last season’s win total for the most in school history. They now hold records of 4-0, 7-3 and 6-1 at home, away and neutral sites respectively.

The Cyclones are in the midst of a historic run under head coach Boomer Saia, who has now won a total of 62 matches. Saia is third on the school’s all-time list for wins, and guided Iowa State to the past two NCAA Championships, with the 2021 tournament marking their first in school history.

Under Saia’s reign, the Cyclones captured multiple first-time wins against their opponents, including Texas, Oklahoma State and Baylor, as well as defeating Iowa on its home court for the first time since 1976. Prior to Saia’s arrival in Ames, Iowa State had been 0-89 against conference opponents from the state of Texas, with Saia capturing eight of a total of 10 since 2021.

The Cyclones will move on to the Big 12 Tournament later this week, as they take on the rest of the conference in Lawrence, Kansas. As the No. 3 seed, Iowa State will take on six-seed Kansas at either noon or 3 p.m. Friday depending on how the seeding shakes out.