History was made in so many ways this season. Over the last week in Tulsa at the NCAA Tennis Championships as the Oklahoma State Cowgirls shut out powerhouse Georgia to make it to the Elite Eight, then knocked off fourth-ranked Ohio State to go to the Final Four, and upset top-ranked California to make it to the brink of the first NCAA Championship ever won by a women's team at Oklahoma State.
Much like their win over Cal on Monday in the warm sun and humid conditions at the Michael Case Tennis Center on the University of Tulsa campus it came down to a close three-set singles match. It went the Cowgirls and Viktoriya Lushkova's way on Monday, but Tuesday fighting off match points Vladica Babic finally hit a ball wide to allow Stanford's number two singles player Taylor Davidson to fall to the ground in celebration as her teammates ran from the side to mob her. Stanford had just won the 18th NCAA title in the program's history.
For Oklahoma State head coach Chris Young the history is he and his girls went much further than any previous Cowgirls tennis team, but his dream of tennis being the first national championship win by a women's team in Oklahoma State history lives on.
"I'm just proud and I'm sure at some point I'll think about how we had match point at number two singles in the second set and it'll bother me, but you saw the crowd and the two teams compete and as someone who grew up in Oklahoma, you know people don't think much about tennis and Oklahoma," Young said kind of rambling and with eyes that did not betray some disappointment.
"What Vince did building this facility (at Tulsa) challenged us to build the facility we have and to build a program. I saw this day coming, I envisioned it. I wanted to have a team that could do something special and these girls did. I'm not surprised at all by what they did. This is a special group and I think everybody saw that. I think there were two champions. I'm not taking away anything from Stanford. They earned it, but what our girls did was really special."
It was a courageous effort as has been the entire stay in Tulsa for the Cowgirls. They did their trademark start with wins at number three doubles by Katarina Adamovis and Vladica Babic and then also at number one singles by Maria Alvarez and Kelsey Laurente. That is the 32nd time out of 35 matches that the Cowgirls took the doubles point. Now all they needed were three singles wins.
It started out well after Stanford's Krista Hardebeck won at number four singles in straight sets 6-4, 6-4 over the Cowgirls Kelsey Laurente. Then Katarina Adamovic beat Stanford's top singles player in fifth-ranked Carol Zhao 6-4, 7-5, and Monday's hero Viktoriya Lushkova downed Carolina Doyle 4-6, 6-4, 6-1. One more win, just one, and the Cowgirls would have it.
However, you have to hand it to Stanford because its final three singles wins all came after Cowgirls won the first set. At number five singles, Carolina Lempl of Stanford came back to close out OSU freshman Katarina Streshnakova 4-6, 6-3, 6-3. At number six singles, Melissa Lord of Stanford downed Carla Tur Mari 6-7, 6-2, 6-2. Lempl and Lord were unbeaten in singles play throughout the tournament going 8-0 and allowing Stanford to win the five and six singles in every match.
That brought it number two singles and with a huge throng of primarily Oklahoma State orange-clad fans the heroics belonged to the Cardinal and not the Cowgirls. As Stanford celebrated on one end of the court, Young and her teammates picked up Babic and hugged her. It was a very emotional match and a very emotional and inspirational week for Cowgirls tennis.
After the match and just before the trophy and post-match ceremony, Babic collapsed.
"That's happened one other time," Young said. "Sometimes when she gets overheated and she sits down and then stands up real quick all that blood flow goes to her head. I asked the girls to stand up and I wanted to talk to them. I knew they were emotional and before we went out I wanted to tell them to hold their heads high because they had nothing to be ashamed of."
That's right, just the opposite. These Cowgirls had every reason to be very proud.
#15 Stanford (20-5) def. #12 Oklahoma State (29-5), 4-3 • Michael D. Case Tennis Center
Head Coaches: Chris Young (Oklahoma State) and Lele Forood (Stanford)
1. #43 Maria Alvarez/Kelsey Laurente (Oklahoma State) def. #5 Taylor Davidson/Caroline Doyle (Stanford), 6-3
2. #54 Viktoriya Lushkova/Carla Tur Mari (Oklahoma State) vs. #31 Melissa Lord/Carol Zhao (Stanford), 5-5 DNF
3. #79 Katarina Adamovic/Vladica Babic (Oklahoma State) def. Krista Hardebeck/Caroline Lampl (Stanford), 6-1
Order of Finish: 3, 1
1. 47 Katarina Adamovic (Oklahoma State) def. #25 Carol Zhao (Stanford), 6-4, 7-5
2. #46 Taylor Davidson (Stanford) def. #44 Vladica Babic (Oklahoma State), 3-6, 7-5, 7-5
3. #66 Viktoriya Lushkova (Oklahoma State) def. #67 Caroline Doyle (Stanford), 4-6, 6-4, 6-1
4. #100 Krista Hardebeck (Stanford) def. Kelsey Laurente (Oklahoma State), 6-4, 6-4
5. Caroline Lampl (Stanford) def. Katarina Stresnakova (Oklahoma State), 4-6, 6-3, 6-3
6. Melissa Lord (Stanford) def. Carla Tur Mari (Oklahoma State), 6-7 (6), 6-2, 6-2
Order of Finish: 4, 1, 3, 5, 6, 2