Samanta Budai: the rising star of ISU tennis


Jenna Reeves/Iowa State Daily

Sophomore Samantha Budai prepares to return the ball to her Oklahoma opponent on Feb. 22, 2015. The Cyclones lost 4-2.

Brian Mozey

Sophomore Samantha Budai didn’t plan on being at Iowa State for her college tennis career, but she’s taking advantage of every opportunity.

Budai was recruited quickly by Iowa State and took over the No. 1 singles spot for the ISU tennis team this year. As a sophomore, her expectations are high and her leadership is expected for the future.

“In the beginning, I wasn’t looking at Iowa State, but rather Montana,” Budai said. “I’m glad to be at Iowa State and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for this particular program.”

Budai said she had a scholarship lined up with Montana at the end of her senior year of high school. During the month of June before going to college, the Montana coach told Budai he signed a different player with her scholarship.

Budai was disappointed and was ready to give up until she saw Iowa State needed players. She decided to email coach Armando Espinosa with a performance video and results of her matches.

“I saw the video and I offered her a scholarship the next day,” Espinosa said. “Her power and strong game style is what we needed for our program.”

Budai said she was shocked by the quick response and the offer of the scholarship. She accepted and packed her bags for four years with the ISU tennis team.

During her first year at Iowa State, Budai was put in the No. 2 singles position and No. 1 doubles with senior Ksenia Pronina. Budai wasn’t expecting to be placed this high during her freshman year, but she was honored and scared at the same time.

Budai had an overall record of 9-8 in the No. 2 position for singles and was 10-9 in No. 1 doubles during her first year on the ISU tennis team.

“It was nerve-racking in some ways because I didn’t know what to expect,” Budai said. “On the other hand, I was excited to show my teammates that I could be relied on and I could perform the task at hand.”

Budai accomplished her dream on Feb. 7, 2015 when she played her first match at the No. 1 singles spot against Utah State. Budai said the decision was made unexpectedly and she didn’t realize this would be the first match of her No. 1 singles career.

Espinosa said he made the decision to switch Pronina and Budai because Budai had a powerful type of game and Pronina was a consistent player who could guarantee a win at the No. 2 position.

Budai was excited about the opportunity, but she knew what the expectations would be for her future at Iowa State.

During the regular season, Budai was 1-1 at the No. 2 singles spot and 8-11 to round out the season at No. 1. Budai also finished 8-10 in No. 1 doubles with Pronina, which went down from her first year.

“Of course I’m not happy with my play because I always want to be better, but I’m proud of the work me and my teammates have put in to make this program better,” Budai said. “I can’t wait to continue working over the summer and build for a bigger future with more wins and higher expectations.”

As a sophomore, Budai has two more years of eligibility with the team and she’s going to take advantage of her opportunities. With five players leaving from the team, Espinosa said he’s expecting Budai to lead by example.

Budai said her mentality during a match has been short and she needs to improve this trait for the future. The main match that got into Budai’s head was against Baylor on March 29. She lost 6-2, 6-0 and was frustrated throughout her entire singles match.

“That can’t happen as a junior and senior,” Budai said. “I need to control my emotions because players are looking up to me for a guaranteed win and I need to provide that for my team.”

Espinosa said Budai has a bright future ahead at Iowa State as long as she practices hard and takes responsibility for her game style. Budai agrees with Espinosa saying she needs to be a leader and take initiative for her fellow teammates.

Espinosa said he plans on recruiting more players than usual to replace the players from this year. That means he needs Budai to lead the pack during her junior and senior year to show the potential of ISU tennis.

“Being the No. 1 singles player on the team is an honor, but that also involves more pressure and responsibility,” Budai said. “I’m ready to practice toward my full potential and make Iowa State a known destination for tennis.”