ISU tennis team has Northern Iowa on its radar

Brian Mozey

Sophomore Talisa Merchiers has played No. 6 singles throughout the beginning of this season, but her struggles in the last two matches could lead to a lineup change in the future.

Merchiers put together a solid performance against Omaha in the Cyclones’ home opener, but had a more difficult time against Iowa and Utah State. She said she’s hoping to regroup against Northern Iowa.

“It’s hard being No. 6 because either you’re the determining factor or the match is already decided before you even play,” Merchiers said.

If the match is already decided, like at Iowa, Merchiers loses a lot of her confidence because it doesn’t matter if she wins. Her play doesn’t decide anything for the team.

“I love the pressure and I play better under pressure,” Merchiers said. “That’s why the coaches put me in that position and I will do everything to keep my spot all season long.”

These spots can be hard to hold because the player is one spot away from not being in the lineup. Sophomore Natalie Phippen is a player who has been practicing to try and play in the No. 6 spot this season.

Phippen said she believes she can earn the No. 6 spot throughout this season with the training and practice she continues to do on a daily basis.

As for the match this week, the team is ready to continue the rivalry within the state of Iowa when they play at Northern Iowa on Feb. 18.

“I think we’re going to beat them 7-0,” Merchiers said.

The UNI team has the ability to track the balls down, but coach Armando Espinosa said that Iowa State has stronger attacks that can exploit Northern Iowa’s strategy.

This match is still a rivalry even though it may not compare to other in-state rivals, Iowa or Drake.

“We want to be the best in the state of Iowa,” Phippen said. “Obviously we didn’t win against Iowa, but now we want to beat Northern Iowa and Drake.”

This match is also a way to get ready for the Big 12 home opener against Oklahoma on Feb. 22.

Sophomore Samantha Budai takes one match at a time, especially against a 6-3 UNI team.

“They aren’t as strong as a team then we are regarding hitting and finding the targets,” Budai said. “But they are fast and they’re going to fight because they are the underdogs in this match.”

With a healthy lineup, the team has a long week and weekend of must win matches to stay in the standings of the Big 12 conference.