Meghan Cassens experiences record-breaking senior year


Yanhua Huang/ Iowa State Daily

Junior Meghan Cassens readies for the return as her partner, sophomore Ana Gasparovic, serves during Iowa State’s meet against TCU at Ames Racquet and Fitness on Friday, March 28.

Brian Mozey

Goals are a way to measure success, while achievements are put in the record books.  

After four years as a member of the ISU tennis team, senior Meghan Cassens has seen the good, the bad and the record books.

Cassens surpassed previous ISU tennis players Sarah Berres and Marie-Christine Chartier, who each had 62 wins, to move to second in ISU tennis history for overall career singles wins. Chartier obtained this record in 2012, whereas Berres finished her career in 1987. Cassens earned her 63rd win against Omaha and 64th against Utah State on Feb. 7. 

Cassens is also tied for third in overall wins for singles and doubles with 114 wins. These wins come with four years of competition, and good and bad moments of a long career.

Entering as one of only five star tennis recruits at Iowa State, Cassens and coach Armando Espinosa had high expectations. 

Espinosa believes that Cassens was placed in the three or four spot because he had the expectation that she was going to start in the lineup as a freshman, but she didn’t have the firepower to play at the top spot right away.

“There’s always a moment in a player’s career where the decision to quit comes in your head,” Cassens said. “That moment came during my sophomore year at the Florida Gulf Coast Invitational.”

Cassens placed seventh out of eight spots and was frustrated with some of her coaching, so she was deliberating between transferring or quitting tennis altogether.

The assistant coach that year was Rodrigo Puebla and the three senior players believed that Puebla didn’t think they were playing to their potential. With all of this in Cassens’ head, she sat down with Espinosa for two hours at the invitational and discussed her future at Iowa State.

Without the help of Espinosa, Cassens would have transferred or quit the team that week. Espinosa said he wanted to comfort Cassens through her hard time, which created a more personal understanding of one another. 

Cassens decided to stay with the team and Espinosa said he was happy with her decision to stay because she won some important matches for the team after that particular moment.

“It took Meghan some time to find out who she was as a tennis player and I think now that she understands her game, she’s more comfortable on the court,” Espinosa said.  

After reflecting over her four years, Cassens’ highlight memory was the weekend tennis match in her hometown of Seattle during the regular season of her sophomore year.

“My family and friends were able to come to the matches, which was really special because my friends have never seen me play tennis,” Cassens said.

Being able to hug her friends and family and go home after the match, Cassens felt like she was in high school again. The rest of the team had the opportunity to see Cassens’ house and enjoy a dinner made by Cassens’ mother. The team was also able to travel to Pike Place Fish Market and the very first Starbucks ever made.

“The Seattle trip felt more like home to be honest because Cassens’ family treated us like family,” said senior Caroline Andersen. “I’ve always wanted to go to Washington and being able to go with the tennis team made it even more memorable.”

Along with the memories, Cassens had a few goals entering her senior year that unfortunately she wasn’t able to accomplish. One was to be playing No. 1 or 2 this regular season, but she understands the skill levels of senior Ksenia Pronina and sophomore Samantha Budai. The other was to be ranked in singles, but she hasn’t been able to play against ranked opponents this season because the three spot doesn’t play many ranked opponents.

“I think she’s earned her way to be in front of me because she’s worked really hard to show she can win some difficult matches,” Budai said. “But it also motivates me to play better because I need to earn the number two spot with Meghan right behind me.”

Cassens hopes she left a legacy and did everything she could to help her team win during her career.  

“I hope they got what they expected as one of the higher recruits they’ve had in the program,” Cassens said. “I knew the expectations they had for me and I hope I achieved them in the right manner.”

Espinosa has watched Cassens grow into a mature leader who respects the game, but shows competitiveness on the court.

“Her demeanor on the court is what I’ll remember the most from her,” Espinosa said. “She might be up 5-0 in the second set and miss a ball and she’s not very happy, so she’ll scream and yell even though she’s up. That’s just who she is and that’s what has made her the player she is today.”

Wins are more essential for Cassens and capturing a Big 12 title is the goal each season. Records are nice to have as a confidence booster, but at the end of the day, team wins are what she’s looking for each match. 

“The ability to have these records happen over the generation of four years is pretty cool,” Cassens said. “I can’t wait to show my children in the future about these accomplishments.”