Cyclone tennis prepares for first Big 12 test


Iowa State senior Samantha Budai smiles at her singles match against Kansas on April 10 at the Forker Tennis Courts. ISU lost 4-2.

Andrew Smith

The Iowa State tennis team (15-2, 1-0 Big 12) is off to its best start in school history. But with all the success, the Cyclones still have their work cut out for them heading into their first Big 12 test.

“[The Big 12] has 10 teams in the top 100, 6 teams in the top 50, so its probably the best conference we have had so far, so its going to be tough,” coach Armando Espinosa said. “We’re going to give it a shot. We have nothing to lose. It’s been a very successful year.” 

In the past three years, the Cyclones have gone 5-22 in Big 12 play, including three straight losses against the Kansas Jayhawks (9-4, 1-1 Big 12). But they have found success against the Kansas State Wildcats (9-8, 0-2 Big 12), winning two out of the last three matches.

The Cyclones will take the trip down to Kansas to take on Kansas State and Kansas this weekend.

Iowa State will begin the weekend Friday when it takes on Kansas State.

The Wildcats are led by Livia Cirnu, who boasts a 13-3 record and is currently undefeated in Big 12 play in singles. The Wildcats have struggled in doubles, where they have a 20-20 record. 

“We give them a lot of respect,” Espinosa said. “They are a very underrated team … they are very good.”

Some players like Erin Freeman, who transferred to Iowa State, haven’t had very much Big 12 experience but still know what needs to be done.

“If we continue to play the way we have been playing, high energy and leave it out on the court, we should be good against Kansas State,” Freeman said.

Iowa State will get a one-day break when it travels to Lawrence, Kansas, to take on Kansas on Sunday afternoon.

Kansas is headed by a trio of dominating players, led by Anastasia Rychagova, who is 19-5, including seven wins against ranked opponents. Maria Toran Ribes, 17-9, and Nina Khmelnitckaia, 15-6, round off the group. 

This success in singles has translated into doubles, where the Jayhawks have gone 98-58 in all doubles matches this season. The Cyclones have a tall order in store if they want to take down Kansas.

“They are very tough,” Espinosa said. ” I think they are ranked 24th in the country. If we are able to get past K-State, we really have nothing to lose. We can just go out there and swing.”

Freeman said the Cyclones need to look at Kansas like it’s just another team.

“Regardless of record, regardless of what they have done in the past, we should just go into it as just another team to play,” Freeman said.

No matter what team the Cyclones face, they know they must put in the effort in order to get anything out of the games, even if they go against a ranked foe.

“We have to be on top of everything,” Annabella Bonadonna said. “We just need to give our 100 percent in every game no matter who we face.”