How exciting was the Oklahoma State Cowgirls semifinal win over top-ranked California? The down to the wire and decided in the final singles match contest was exciting enough to have me break down on the radio and start doing play-by-play off the streaming signal on my I-pad.
I did tennis radio play-by-play of the tiebreaker at number two singles where California's Klara Fabikova closed out Vladica Babic 6-2, 7-6 (8-6) to even the match at 3-3. Then it was time to change the signal to court number three and the number three singles where the face of the Cowgirls program in Viktoriya Luskova was battling in the third set with the Golden Bear's Lynn Chi.
When all the attention turned to that deciding match Luskova was in the midst of breaking Chi for a second time in the third set. She polished off the service break to go ahead 5-2 and serve for the match. Luskova wasn't going to be denied and neither were the Cowgirls as Luskova closed out when Chi buried a volley into the net and the 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 match win put the Cowgirls in Tuesday's noon NCAA Women's Championship match at the Michael Case Tennis Center in Tulsa against 15th-ranked Stanford. The Cardinal beat Vanderbilt 4-2 and is now 19-5 on the season. The Cowgirls, led by Luskova. are now 29-4 on the season.
“No one is going to beat Viktoriya right now. That’s just a fact. The thing about Viktoriya is, she’s had it so easy. She’s the first one off the court. I kind of joked with her after the first set, I said, ‘Today is your day to go to the interview room, because you get to be the last one on the court,"’ head coach Chris Young said of the leader that provided the clincher and the recruit that he brought in that as much as anybody changed the talent level of Cowgirls tennis as other talented players followed.
"I don’t think Viktoriya should ever go unnoticed in our program. A lot of things that she’s done, taking the role that she did of moving to number three this year, is one of the reasons why we are where we are. Because we have the doubles point, and we have Lushkova 98 percent of the time. So, when you’re up 2-0, it’s tough for anybody to get four out of five points.
"I just think that it’s a different person every day, but Viktoriya has been the most consistent throughout this season, and with match on the line, she’s as tough as anybody. She’s been that way since Day 1. She has no fear. The girls give her a hard time because she just keeps going for it, but that’s what makes her special. Lynn Chi [of California] is a girl that made the singles final two years ago, one of the best players in college tennis. It’s a heavyweight battle. At the end of the day, I’ll take Viki every time.”
The match started out very normal by Cowgirl standards as Lushkova and Carla Tur Mari won the number two doubles set from Cal's Fabikova and Olivia Haugher. That followed the number three doubles pair for the Cowgirls of Katarina Adamovic and Vladika Babic closing the set 6-0 over Lynn Chi and Maria Smith. Another doubles point to the Cowgirls and that happens close to 90 percent of the time.
Then the singles matches started with the nationally ranked Cal players ready to prove their number one ranking again, and after wins at number six and number five singles the Bears surged ahead. A huge momentum builder was Katarina Adamovic's win at number one singles as she defeated seventh-ranked Maegan Manasse in straight sets. That win combined with Kelsey Laurente's win at number four singles put the Cowgirls back ahead at 3-2.
Then came that winning second set tiebreaker for Fabikova and all eyes on court number three. It turns out that court three was interesting from the beginning when Chi won the first set over Luskova 6-2 sending the Cowgirl for a bathroom break.
“It was funny. I went to the restroom and Katie (Adamovic) and Karla (Popovic) were in there and I was glad we could meet each other during the match," Luskova said of the popular spot at the Case Tennis Center. "Then we decided that we were going to battle back and win the second sets. That just kind of made us all laugh, and I feel like we started playing a little bit better.”
A little better is all it took and it's made her head coach nearly speechless. I said nearly speechless because Chris Young can always find something to say, certainly, about his team being in the NCAA finals.
“It sounds awesome. I can’t believe it. I’m so blessed. I just feel like God is watching over this program and giving us opportunities to do something special," Young said. "We talked about last time, Oklahoma State has never won a women’s national championship in any sport, although we’ve won as many national championships as just about anyone in the country. That’s been something I wanted to bring to Oklahoma State since Day 1. I knew we had the potential with these girls to do it, and they’re showing everybody that they’re definitely capable.”
Young, who has poured so much of himself into this program since coming from Wichita State and did a lot of the fund raising for the Greenwood Tennis Center including with the Greenwoods, admitted he was mostly speechless right after the match.
“I’m still at a loss for words. There’s not much to say," Young said in the press conference. "These girls know, after all they’ve been through this season, everything we’ve overcome, they know how proud I am of them. I don’t think I really have to say anything. I think they can see it on my face and know what this means. You get to this point in the journey, and I don’t really think you have to say a lot. Everybody just knows. I think that’s important.”
Everybody knows now. Oklahoma State can win another NCAA national championship, their 52nd overall and as Chris Young said the first won by a women's team in Oklahoma State history. Now that really is special.
#12 Oklahoma State (29-4) def. #1 California (23-2), 4-3
Head Coaches: Amanda Augustus (California) and Chris Young (Oklahoma State)
1. #4 Maegan Manasse/Denise Starr (California) vs. #43 Maria Alvarez/Kelsey Laurente (Oklahoma State), 5-2 DNF
2. #54 Viktoriya Lushkova/Carla Tur Mari (Oklahoma State) def. #90 Klara Fabikova/Olivia Hauger (California), 6-2
3. #79 Katarina Adamovic/Vladica Babic (Oklahoma State) def. Lynn Chi/Maria Smith (California), 6-0
Order of Finish: 3, 2
1. 47 Katarina Adamovic (Oklahoma State) def. #7 Maegan Manasse (California), 6-4, 6-2
2. #16 Klara Fabikova (California) def. #44 Vladica Babic (Oklahoma State), 6-3, 7-6 (6)
3. #66 Viktoriya Lushkova (Oklahoma State) def. #80 Lynn Chi (California), 2-6, 6-4, 6-2
4. Kelsey Laurente (Oklahoma State) def. #88 Denise Starr (California), 6-4, 6-3
5. Olivia Hauger (California) def. Katarina Stresnakova (Oklahoma State), 6-2, 6-4
6. Karla Popovic (California) def. Carla Tur Mari (Oklahoma State), 6-1, 6-2
Order of Finish: 6, 5, 4, 1, 2, 3