For the second season in a row, the Oklahoma State women’s tennis team took home the Big 12 regular season crown. The ninth-ranked Cowgirls tallied their fifth consecutive sweep Sunday morning in a 4-0 shutout over Iowa State to clinch a share of the conference title. The championship marks OSU’s fourth in the Big 12 era.
“I think it’s a lot of hard work. The girls have done a great job just competing all the way through this season.” Head Coach Chris Young said. “We came into it knowing that we had a target on our back and that everyone was going to give us their best effort. So, I’m really proud of how the girls competed throughout the conference regular season and now that prepares us for the post season. I think that the league this year was as strong as it’s been since I’ve been in the league, and so really proud of the effort to be able to win a conference title with as many good teams as we have. I think it says a lot about the girls.”
The Cowgirls finished 20-4 on the season and 6-1 in Big 12 play, their only loss in Big 12 play came against top ranked Texas Tech back on March 31st in Lubbock.
To say that the Cowgirls have a strong team would be an understatement. Oklahoma State is one of five Big 12 schools ranked in the top 25 going into this week. They’re ranked ninth while Texas Tech is seventh, Baylor 15th, while Texas and TCU round out the top 25 in that order. The team’s three seniors, Katarina Adamovic, Carla Tur Mari and Viktoriya Lushkova have a combined 252 singles wins, 274 doubles wins, three All-American honors and 10 All-Big 12 honors while helping the Cowgirls to an 88-24 dual record. And the younger players aren’t pushovers either. Chris Young has been able to bring in some immense talent to the program over the past few years and the success is showing. Freshman Aliona Bolsova joined the roster this fall as one of the most decorated juniors players in the history of Cowgirl Tennis, ranking as high as the No. 4 spot in the ITF world junior rankings. Freshman Lena Ruppert has been ranked as high as the No. 70 ranked player in Germany and one of the top-10 rated under 18 players. And what’s more impressive, the Cowgirl underclassman of Bolsova, Ruppert and sophomores Sofia Blanco and Katarina Stresnakova have combined for a 78-22 record this season.
“I think for us, it’s just everybody kind of finding their role and how they can help the team.” said Coach Young on what’s been the strong point of his team. “I think each girl improving, I think we’ve been able to do that. I think our doubles continue to get stronger, and I think we’re kind of back to the point now, at this point in the season where we were last season with our doubles. And I think, you know, singles I think we’ve been able to establish a pretty good lineup right now. With our depth, I think we have some good combinations working you know, girls can go out there and give us a good effort each and every time.”
The Big 12 Championships are slated for this weekend in Norman, and the Cowgirls have had immense success at the Big 12’s during the Chris Young era. This year marks only the seventh time in the Cowgirls’ 21 appearances that they’re ranked as a second seed, which means they will receive a first-round bye and take on the winner of Thursday’s match between Kansas and West Virginia. In the 21 years, the Cowgirls have advanced to the semifinals nine times and the finals five, with three of the finals appearances coming under Young’s tutelage. And last season during the Cowgirls’ first title since 2003, Viktoriya Lushkova became the program’s first ever Most Outstanding Player at the tournament.
One of the issues that faces the teams in the tournament is the weather. The forecast shows rain Friday evening and on into Saturday as well which could lead to matches being played indoors. But that doesn’t seem to faze the Cowgirls and they played a portion of the matches at the NCAA Tournament last season indoors and they finished as the second-best team in the country.
“I think, you know, the weather is obviously a factor this weekend.” said Coach Young about the weather this weekend. “Going into it, it looks like we could play inside possibly every day, so that’ll be a factor. But I think our team is just as good inside as outside and I think that’s the strength of our team.”
But most importantly, the team isn’t going into this weekend with an expectation of anything less than a championship. “This is the fun time now.” said senior Katarina Adamovic. “You know postseason is when it really counts, when every match counts, every match can be your last one. So definitely, we want to go Norman and defend our title. We feel like we’re playing at home and we should use that chance. Some teams are going to come strong against us and play their best tennis. But, I think we’re in a good place as a team and each girl plays really well and I think it’s going to be a really fun weekend.”