Despite losses, young Cyclone lineup focuses on positivity


Lani Tons/Iowa State Daily

Iowa State freshman Annabella Bonadonna jumps for the tennis ball at the match against Kansas on April 10. The Cyclones fell 4-2. Bonadonna ranked first nationally in her age group in 2011 and 2013 before attending ISU.

Andrew Smith

The spring season has been a story of highs and lows for the Iowa State tennis team. The Cyclones managed to go a program-best 14-2 in their non-conference schedule. But they’ve struggled in Big 12 play, losing five straight games to ranked teams and going 1-6 overall.

The Cyclones are determined to not let the lack of recent success define the season. Iowa State has a young team with only one senior in the top six and no juniors. The squad is slowly building confidence every game.

“These schools are better on paper than we are,” senior Samantha Budai said. “Just knowing that the younger players are fighting with them gives them a lot of confidence. They should be getting their butts kicked but they’re not, so it’s good for them to see all their hard work paying off.”

With a pair of home duals left, the Cyclones are still learning and gaining valuable experience. It has been a successful season for several of the younger players.

Coach Armando Espinosa and his staff looked to bring in some big recruits and did so with the signing of Margarita Timakova and Maty Cancini, who instantly filled spots in a lineup where several seasoned players had left.

Cancini has stepped up in a huge way, filling in at the No. 2 spot going 8-7 in singles where she had faced several ranked opponents from top schools.

She has also provided a spark on a few occasions filling in at the No. 1 spot.

“I’m feeling really good playing,” Cancini said, “But I still think I can do better. I still have some things to get better at.”

Timakova also has been celebrating a successful freshman year. She has been a staple at No. 4 or No. 5 singles, going 10-4 on the season so far and giving the Cyclones a huge a boost in doubles with a 10-6 record.

“At the end of the day it becomes a confidence boost for the players,” Espinosa said. “Even though they are out there [and] they may take a loss, but they are competing with ranked opponents and it should be taken away as a positive.”

The success isn’t just limited to the freshmen. The three sophomores, Regina Espindola, Erin Freeman and Annabell Bonadonna have taken the next step and will take leadership roles for the Cyclones next season. 

Espindola has been an impact player for the Cyclones this season in singles, winning as much as 12 in a row at the No. 3 or No. 4 position.

She has also managed to get 10 wins in doubles along with some non-conference wins with Karen Alvarez, another freshman who has seen the court quite a bit.

Bonadonna and Freeman have managed to play well enough to find themselves as singles lineup regulars collectively going 16-8 solidifying their spots.

“Having a really positive attitude and mind is really important for us,” Alvarez said. “It’s really important for us to keep going and never focus on the negatives just the positives and getting better.”

While the Cyclones have had a tough go around in the Big 12 slate, their record isn’t the main focus. Improvement is what the Cyclones want and the experience they gain now could be key to becoming a top team in the future. 

Resiliency and positivity are two key factors that Espinosa has been preaching to his team. With these main factors in place, the team can achieve heights that previous teams never could. 

“Whether if you’re young or a veteran it’s that your competing,” Espinosa said. “That means that what we have been working on has been paying off, the fact that we are still hanging in the second sets and not giving up is a good characteristic to have.”