By Taylor Miller
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
The Oklahoma State women’s tennis team is only halfway through the season and has already seen an impressive amount of success.
“It has been very exciting to see our program grow over the last few years and to accomplish more each season,” coach Chris Young said. “There has been a lot of hard work put in by many people and it is nice to see that pay off with results that have not been accomplished in our program before.”
The 2014-15 squad, led by Young, began the season with hopes of making history and they’ve done just that.
Thanks to a new, state-of-the-art tennis facility, the Cowgirls were selected for the first time to host the 2014 ITA Central Region Championship, a prestigious tournament held in the fall. OSU as well as several other schools battled for the singles and doubles titles. The Cowgirls dominated, putting two Cowgirls in the singles finals as well as two doubles pairs in the doubles finals.
All-American Viktoriya Lushkova, a sophomore from the Ukraine, defeated teammate and freshman Vladica Babic for the ITA central region singles title. Lushkova went on to pair up with Miami transfer Kelsey Laurente to win the doubles championship.
Because of their championship performances, the two Cowgirls earned a spot in the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships in New York City. The duo made it to the semifinals, while Lushkova made an appearance in the singles quarterfinals.
That same weekend, sophomore Katarina Adamovic won the singles brackets at the Dickie V Clay Court Classic to close out OSU’s fall season.
That momentum carried over into the spring season as the Cowgirls went to 2-0 at the ITA Kickoff Weekend, defeating conference opponent and No. 29 Texas Tech in the first round. In the championship round, the Pokes took out No. 18 Georgia Tech, 4-3, to qualify the team for its first-ever ITA Indoor Team Championships.
At the event, the Cowgirls dropped two close matches to now-top-ranked North Carolina and now-No. 9 Alabama, before upsetting No. 11 Villanova, 4-2, in the last day of competition.
Those wins helped push the Cowgirls higher and higher in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings.
On March 3, the Cowgirls earned a No. 8 ranking by the ITA, the highest ranking in program history. It was the first time since 1990 that the Pokes cracked the top 10. The next week, OSU enjoyed a second week in the top 10.
Also setting records in rankings was the Lushkova/Laurente duo, who, in mid-February, were tabbed as the No. 3 doubles team in the nation, making them the highest-ranked Cowgirl duo in program history.
The Cowgirls have also seen four Cowgirls in singles rankings in the same week, with Lushkova, Laurente, Adamovic and Babic earning a number next to their names in February.
The Cowgirls currently own a 13-3 record this spring and are 1-1 in conference play. Of their 13 wins, 11 have come over ranked opponents, proving the toughness of their schedule. In fact, all three of their losses came at the hands of top-10 opponents.
Among their wins, are three over ranked opponents, helping the Cowgirls continue their climb in the rankings and bringing them closer to hosting a NCAA regional.
“One of the strengths of this team is our depth,” Young said. “We have played a very demanding schedule and in every match someone new has been called on to step up. Our team is still very young and many of the girls have been put in a situation to clinch the match for the first time, so that has been a learning experience. It is hard to single out one player because the strength of our team is the team itself and I believe that emphasis has played a big role in our success.”
Young said he credits the recent success to not only the talent of his athletes but also their willingness and drive to succeed.
“The biggest difference has been the players,” Young said. “We have been fortunate to recruit great players who have good character and a desire to not only improve on an individual level, but do something special here with our program. This group has had high goals since the beginning of the season and have kept their focus on what it takes to get there.”