Three Big Takeaways: Cyclones weather the storm to sweep Bulldogs


Tyler Coe

Iowa State defeated Drake in a doubles match in the NCAA Regionals on May 5, 2023.

The No. 11 seeded Iowa State tennis team took down Drake in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday, sweeping the Bulldogs to advance to the second round.

The Cyclones weathered the storm in more ways than one, with the match first starting out at the Ames High School Tennis Complex, and then ending at Life Time Fitness in Urbandale due to thunderstorms.

It was the second time this year that Iowa State defeated the Bulldogs, who qualified for this year’s postseason by winning the Missouri Valley Conference Championship over No. 1 seed Illinois State. Drake went 7-1 in conference play, and ended the regular season on a 16-7 record. The two teams had previously met in January at the Roger Knapp Center in Des Moines, where Iowa State beat Drake 7-0.

The Bulldogs got off to a fast start on Friday, taking an early lead in doubles and setting themselves up to lock up the point. The Cyclones produced a come-from-behind win to take the doubles point 2-1, then had their top-three singles players win out to get their 19th victory of what continues to be a record-breaking season.

Climbing back in doubles

The Cyclones struck first in the dual by taking the doubles point on a 2-1 scoreline, but faced a deficit early on.

The Bulldogs won the first match of the afternoon at No. 2 doubles, as Ines Stephani and Oriana Parks-Goodwin rolled past No. 77-ranked pair Ange Oby Kajuru and Xinyi Nong on a 6-1 scoreline. The loss broke a seven-match winning streak for Kajuru and Nong, who came into the matchup with a 12-2 record on the season.

Iowa State answered right back at the No. 3 spot through the pair of Sofia Cabezas and Miska Kadleckova. The pair were initially trailing against Elizabete Klavinska and Rebecca Ehn, but employed strong, attacking strokes to eventually tie things up at 4-3.

Kadleckova and Cabezas pushed ahead with the lead in hand, eventually taking the match on a 6-3 scoreline and tying things up at 1-1. The win was Kadleckova’s 29th doubles victory of the season, as she increased her single-season record. The Banska Bystrica, Slovakia, native is seventh on the program’s all-time career doubles victories list, and is one of four active Iowa State players who have at least 100 career wins.

The focus then shifted over to the No. 1 court, as the Bulldogs still stood with a chance to win the doubles point. Darinka Stepan and Mille Haagensen held a 5-3 advantage over No. 54 Thasaporn Naklo and Anna Supapitch Kueraum.

The all-Thai pairing of Naklo and Kuearum were looking for a win after falling in the semifinals of the Big 12 Tournament to Oklahoma’s Ivana and Carmen Corley. Against the Drake duo, the Cyclones again completed a come-from-behind effort, as Kuearum’s strong backcourt play and intercepts by Naklo at the front created scoring opportunities.

Naklo and Kuearum continued their poaching strategy all the way to make it 6-5 in their favor. Stepan and Haagensen won the next game to send it to a seven-point tiebreaker, where Kuearum again delivered for her team. Under pressure throughout the tiebreak, Kuearum and Naklo attacked their opponents’ play, and took the doubles point on a 7-3 scoreline in the decider.

Iowa State clinched the doubles point for the 18th time this season on Friday, with that trend generally leading to good things down the road. Heading into the matchup, the Cyclones were 17-1 in matches where they won the doubles point.

Kadleckova and Naklo earn quick victories

Iowa State continued its momentum into singles play, as the top half of the lineup quickly took over to record points.

Kadleckova wasted no time in her match against Klavinska on Court No. 3. The junior didn’t let her opponent win a single game off of her, closing out her 28th singles victory of the year by the score of 6-0, 6-0. It was the third time that Kadleckova had recorded a “double-bagel” over her opponent, as she did so in back-to-back matches during the fall season.

On the No. 1 court, Naklo put another check mark in the win column for Iowa State by earning a 6-1, 6-1 win over Stephani. Naklo, who also qualified for this year’s NCAA Individual Singles Championships, was trying to bounce back from her previous loss to Oklahoma’s Layne Sleeth in the Big 12 Tournament.

Stephani entered the match as the newly-crowned Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year, and finished the regular season with a 28-11 record, including 7-1 in conference play.

Naklo extended Iowa State’s lead to 3-0 on another gritty performance. Both athletes played almost-exclusively from the baseline, and the Iowa State player was able to win out 6-1, 6-1. Naklo is now tied with teammate Chie Kezuka for second-most in career singles wins, as both have 75.

Kajuru closes things out

The Cyclones got the win thanks to a straight-sets victory from Kajuru, who like Naklo, was looking for redemption entering the postseason.

Kajuru is enjoying a strong sophomore campaign, as she finished the regular season with at least 20 victories in both singles and doubles play. She was named Big 12 Champion at both No. 2 singles, and No. 2 Doubles alongside Nong. Entering Friday’s matchup, she was ranked 66th in the country in singles play, having won 18 of her last 21 matches.

In her last match, Kajuru suffered a heartbreaking loss to Oklahoma’s Dana Guzman in the Cyclones’ 4-3 loss to the Sooners. Leading 5-4 in the third set of the deciding match, Kajuru could not convert any of her final points, as Guzman came back to take the match, 7-5. It was just the

Against Klavinska, Kajuru started off strong by racing to a 5-1 lead, then clinching the first set on her serve. The play was a bit tighter in the second frame, as the players eventually came to a 3-3 score.

Kajuru was able to break ahead for the 4-3 lead, and then got another game off of Klavinska to make it 5-3. With just two points standing between her and the victory, heavy rain set in, forcing the match to be temporarily delayed, and then moved to Life Time Fitness in Urbandale to be concluded.

Now indoors, Kajuru wasted no time finishing off the deal, as she took the final two points to clinch her fourth match of the season 6-1, 6-3.

Iowa State will next face off against No. 21 Wisconsin in the second round for the chance to enter the third round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history.

The Badgers earned a 4-1 win over No. 43 LSU earlier on Friday to advance. The two schools last met in the regular season last year as well, with Iowa State earning a come-from-behind win to extend their record at the time to 10-0.

Saturday’s matchup between the Cyclones and Badgers is scheduled to be played at 1 p.m. at the Ames High School tennis courts. In the case of inclement weather, the match will be played at 6 p.m. at Life Time Fitness in Urbandale.