Pieces starting to fall in place for Iowa State tennis team


Dalton Gackle/Iowa State Daily

Sophomore Samantha Budai celebrates after a game victory. No. 10 Oklahoma State defeated Iowa State 4-0.

Andrew Smith

The Iowa State tennis team has found itself in a favorable position. The team is sitting at 8-2, and riding a five-game winning streak early this season as it inches closer to its first Big 12 matchup.

The Cyclones are also starting to find themselves on the court, as team chemistry and practice is leading to success. Particularly Margarita Timakova and Annabella Bonadonna, a pair who hasn’t dropped a match since the season opener. 

“They’re playing really well, they like to be aggressive; they’re doing the fundamentals right and it’s paying off,” Coach Armando Espinosa said. “We just need to keep improving.”

Timakova and Bonadonna have been huge in terms of success for Iowa State. Many of their wins have been used as a springboard of confidence heading into singles matches where Regina Espindola has dominated winning all her matches so far.

“I think I’m just contributing my points in singles,” Espindola said. “Timakova and Bonadonna are doing their job in doubles and everyone has their own job.” 

Even with the individual successes, Iowa State still has its struggles on the court at certain spots on the line-up. Sami Budai and her partner Matty Cancini have had a tough time getting things rolling at number one doubles.

“I’ve seen our number one team play extremely well,” Espinosa said. “I’ve also seen them play extremely poor so we really need consistency.”

Despite the struggles, Espinosa has still been pleased with the duo, especially Cancini — who is a freshman and still trying to find her identity.

“I think she has done pretty good, I still think I expect more of her. I think she can do a lot better,” Espinosa said. “Our team as a whole likes to hit big balls and for her coming in she thought in order for me to play here I have to hit big and so it’s trying to find her identity as a college tennis player instead of comparing herself to others.”

Overall, the Cyclones are finding out who they are as players. Even if a specific player has found success, Espinosa likes to think that she has plenty of options for a singles lineup that has had its ups and downs.

“I think we still have options, it’s just finding people in the right spot,” Espinosa said. “I think the top six are pretty secure, it’s just trying to find out where we are more consistent.”

Doubles has been a major focal point for the Cyclones this season. In almost all of the wins this season, Iowa State has jumped out to an early lead in doubles.

Right now, the two and three spots are sitting at 7-2 each, which is an impressive clip moving into the bulk of the schedule. This is where the Cyclones need to do the bulk of their damage. The No. 1 spot has been up and down going 5-4 so far.

“The problem with one is that every school is going to have a good number one team,” Espinosa said. “It’s tough, anything can happen.”

Even if the Cyclones win the doubles, point work still needs to be done on the singles side. Budai has played well when she can finish her matches. She has tallied an unblemished five wins and zero losses. 

The most successful spots for the Cyclones have been with Espindola, who has won nine straight. Annabella Bonadonna has provided six wins and one loss. The rest of the lineup has been average, providing .500 records and some a little above.

If the doubles pairs continue to win big matches and the singles players can find a spark, Iowa State will find success in the upcoming Big 12 matches. 

“I know we are tired, we have to play every single weekend but we have to be on top of everything,” Bonadonna said. “We just need to give our 100 percent every time.”