ISU tennis prepares for Big 12 home opener

Brian Mozey

Traditions fall and losses happen, but regrouping and composure is necessary in the Big 12 conference.

The ISU women’s tennis team had a hard loss against Northern Iowa on Feb. 18, breaking a 10-year winning streak against the Panthers. It was also a disappointment because the Cyclones were the favorite in this match.

In the Feb. 22 match against No. 33 Oklahoma, Iowa State will be the underdog and won’t have the pressure of winning on its shoulders. This is also the first match against a ranked opponent this regular season.

“We need to shake off the loss and regroup to beat Big 12 rival Oklahoma,” said senior Caroline Andersen. “Playing ranked opponents is nice in the fact that we don’t have anything to lose, so all we can do is play hard.”

Oklahoma will be going up against a new lineup for the Big 12 home opener due to a wrist injury that is keeping junior Ana Gasparovic out and a suspension for sophomore Talisa Merchiers for violating team rules. The team would not provide any more details about the suspension or injury.

Coach Armando Espinosa said these absences might linger past the weekend, but it depends on his decision, as well as the rehab for the injury. Sophomore Natalie Phippen took Merchiers’ spot and defeated her opponent at Northern Iowa.

This weekend will be the first time Iowa State is able to see the entire Oklahoma team after seeing parts throughout the fall invitationals.

“Every regular-season game is a stepping stone to prepare ourselves for the Big 12 conference championship at the end of April,” Espinosa said. “We can’t worry about wins and losses in this strong conference, but we need to learn from our mistakes for the tournament.”

This upcoming match is quite early for the Big 12 season because after Oklahoma, the team doesn’t face another Big 12 team until March 13, when it plays West Virginia. Senior Ksenia Pronina said that this previous loss against Northern Iowa can’t be in the players’ heads because they need all of their focus and effort to defeat a tough-ranked Oklahoma team.