Phippen heads home as ISU tennis heads to Minnesota


Jenna Reeves/Iowa State Daily

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

Brian Mozey

The third time is the charm for Natalie Phippen. She knew she would play tennis for the Cyclones this season, but didn’t know it would come so soon and at the right time.

Phippen will join senior Meghan Cassens in doubles and take on the number six singles position this weekend for the third time in her home state of Minnesota.

“I’m really excited to play at home this weekend and see my parents and friends,” Phippen said. “I’m just hoping things go well and we can get the win for my family.”

The Stillwater, Minn. native hasn’t played at home since the Gopher Invitational last fall on Sept. 19 to 21, 2014. Phippen couldn’t have planned it better to start getting playing time with the trip to Minnesota looming.

With sophomore Talisa Merchiers transferring and junior Ana Gasparovic out this weekend with a wrist injury, the ISU tennis team is on a short leash for players.

“We only have [Anna] Garcia and [Liera] Bender as active players on our bench,” said coach Armando Espinosa. “I’m hoping we don’t have to use them for a couple matches and ruin their redshirt option this year.”

The ISU tennis team will be playing No. 70 Minnesota on Feb. 27, a 7-2 Marquette team Feb. 28 and a 2-6 Wisconsin-Milwaukee team March 1. With three matches in three days, the main focus besides winning will be maintaining the health of the players.

“If you get hurt, you get hurt,” Phippen said. “You can’t control that aspect of the game except get the sleep needed and eat three meals a day.”

Senior Ksenia Pronina said the team can’t just focus on the health because they are playing three tough teams this weekend. Pronina is familiar with the three opponents through her years on the team.

Iowa State has played Marquette the last five seasons and is 1-4 with a win in the 2009-10 season. The ISU tennis team plays Minnesota every year in the fall season but has only played Wisconsin-Milwaukee once, which was last year.

“We need to play each match one at a time, rather than think about the future matches,” Pronina said. “If we play the same way we played against Oklahoma, we’ll have a good chance of winning this weekend.”

The team lost to No. 33 Oklahoma 4-2 on Feb. 22, but with that close of a score, the players’ confidence is up.

“It’s crazy how we lose to Northern Iowa and then come so close to beating Oklahoma, who is ranked really high,” Pronina said. “It just shows the opportunities we have during this long season.”

This weekend will be the first three-match weekend for the team this season, but it will face similar weekends throughout the rest of the season.

“It’ll be a tough weekend with so many matches, but this is our job,” Phippen said. “We play tennis for Iowa State, so we just need to be prepared mentally and physically for this upcoming weekend in Minnesota.”