The Oklahoma State Cowgirl tennis team start their 2017 NCAA Tournament campaign this Saturday at noon against UMKC at the Greenwood Tennis Center. “We’ve had a good regular season, but now, this is the time we’ve waited for all season.” Said Coach Young when asked about if he thinks his team is ready for the postseason. “I think after last season, getting a taste of the post season and playing for a title, you really just prepare for that this whole season, and we’ve been preparing for this moment here. Now it’s time for the postseason to start and I think our girls are ready. And you know, this week is about getting through finals but also getting our work in and I think our girls are ready to roll.”
The ninth ranked Cowgirls finished the regular season with a record of 22-5 and are a perfect 10-0 at home this season, and their 32-straight wins at home is the longest active home win streak in Power Five women’s tennis. “We’re just excited to play.” Said three-time All-American Viktoriya Lushkova. “We’re excited to get the chance to go back to Nationals and I guess just excited to play at home again because we haven’t really played much, and just go on a court and play tennis.”
One of the biggest concerns that faces most college tennis teams going into the NCAA tournament is the fact that the first rounds are held at the end of finals week. Most teams will be traveling and would either have to move the tests, or try and plan workouts and practice around the tests and studying. Lucky for the Cowgirls, they’ve been able to host the opening rounds of the tournament the last three years in a row.
“It’s a challenge every year.” Said Coach Young about preparing for the NCAA tournament during finals week. “You know, this hits us every year at this time. The benefit for us has been the last three years we’ve been hosting. So, we haven’t had to move up finals and move that around. We’ve let them be able to take it and the girls will all be done on Thursday. So, today and tomorrow we’ll have to adjust just a bit and through the rest of the week. But the girls have done a great job. 3.7 GPA last fall, perfect APR now for the last four or five years, so we’re really proud of the girls and what they accomplished in the classroom. That’s equally important to what we’re going to do this weekend. But, yeah, I think when you have a group like this that’s achieving at a high level, they do it in all aspects and that’s what our program really is focused on.”
And on top of the team qualifying for the NCAA tournament, four members of the Cowgirl tennis team, including all three seniors, were chosen to compete for individual championships at the NCAA Singles and Double Championships which are set for May 24-29 at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Ga. Viktoriya Lushkova and Katarina Adamovic earned at-large selections in singles, and Vladica Babic is listed as a second alternate. On the doubles side, Vladica Babic and Carla Tur Mari have earned an automatic bid.
Lushkova, who has 21 wins so far on the season, will be competing as the No. 8 seed in the singles side of the bracket, which solidifies her third All-American honor. Adamovic looks to top her 2016 campaign which ended in the national quarterfinals, but took home her first All-America recognition in the process. And on the doubles side, Tur Mari and Babic look to continue their successful season in which they were ranked in the top 10 in the ITA doubles for the majority of the season. They’ve gone 22-6 so far this season including 13-4 this spring, and an impressive run that led to the ITA Central Region doubles title during the fall.
Yesterday, Robert Allen spoke to Jay Udwadia about his team’s trip to Athens a few years ago, and it seems that tennis players are just as superstitious as baseball players. They ended up eating at the same restaurant for the duration of their stay in Athens. Well, Robert had the chance to speak to Coach Young and Viktoriya Lushkova about a similar situation last season when the Cowgirls played in Tulsa for the 2016 Championships.
“You know, it’s funny, because our team is very much ritualistic and routine.” Said Coach Young. “So, we try to do some different things. We find something that works, and we stick with it. So, last year, we had Jason’s Deli for lunch, and Pei Wei for dinner for six straight days. The girls didn’t want to change it. Even though everyone was getting tired, we were winning and so we kept doing it. And you know, I like certain foods quite often, but even for me it was getting quite a bit. So, yeah, we’ll take the girls wherever, you know, we want to keep them happy and well fed and doing everything. But at the same time, I think the girls, they kind of know what you like at this point and time in the season and what works for them. It’s hard to always please a big group of people and have everybody get what they want. But at the same time, I think when you find something good, you stick with it. So, last year it worked good to stick with it, and it got us pretty far. So, I think our team might find something similar in Athens.
And Viktoriya Lushkova certainly didn’t care for the same cuisine day in and day out. “Yeah it was terrible.” Said Lushkova. “I’m not such a superstitious person. And when on the third day they said we’re eating P.F. Changs, I got sick. I said ‘No, I’m not eating that. I’m sorry.’ But they are like, Carla was like ‘I need to wear the same shoes, I need to wear the same outfit’ and then Kat was like ‘I’m right there with you’ and I was like ‘Oh my God, this is going to be a long week.’ But yeah, they try to make us do the same thing again over and over every day.”
And this is where I get a little torn. I’m a somewhat superstitious person being an old baseball player, but I think I’m with Viktoriya on this one. I definitely need a little variety on the food front. Especially when it comes to six-straight days.