By Meredith Hillgartner
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Samantha Adams has a target on her back.
It's one she put there herself.
Excelling last year as a freshman, Adams helped bring the Texas Tech tennis team ranking up 40 spots.
This year, the sophomore from New Braunfels has taken another young player, freshman Kenna Kilgo, under her wing, making them the doubles team to beat in the Big 12 Conference.
And now Adams is looking for more than just wins.
"I'm looking for a little bit of revenge," Adams said. "Against teams like (Texas) A&M and (Oklahoma) -where I felt like we had it and then just kind of lost it at the end. I feel like this year I've matured mentally and obviously just having the chemistry that we have in our games. It's going to be exciting to match up against them again."
Head coach Todd Petty said big matches against higher ranked, in-state rivals have much more riding on them than just competition on the court.
Beating teams like No. 9 Texas and No. 16 Texas A&M are huge resume builders for a growing program like No. 18 Texas Tech.
"The girls definitely mark those two on the calendar," Petty said. "I think everybody, in any sport, marks those two on their calendar when they come up. So, you know there's not a whole lot of motivating that has to go on before those matches."
Adams' doubles partner, Kilgo, said she is just along for the ride.
But she is doing much more than that. Kilgo is proving herself to be a legitimate threat.
The 18-year-old Waco native, who should be in her senior year of high school, graduated a year early to enroll at Tech.
Petty said the team was very lucky to acquire some of the top recruits from the state of Texas and said it was all because the girls took a chance on him.
"I was selling them more on a dream of what could be, and asking them to kind of take a leap of faith of what we're going to do if they can commit to me when I was in my first year or two of coaching," Petty said. "Hats off to them for seeing what could be, and then putting in the hard work to start achieving it."
The hard work started last year when Adams and the rest of team were able to bring Tech up 40 spots in the rankings. Adding Kilgo to the rotation this year has only intensified the effect.
"[Adams] gave us another powerhouse at the top of the lineup early as a freshman and that's hard to do," Petty said. "She kind of carried that on and gave the team a little bit of motivation going in, as a surprise to have a freshman doing this well, and Kenna's been almost a mirror image of her this year as a freshman."
The duo won their sixth-straight doubles match this past weekend when the team won 6-1 against Kansas on Sunday.
Tech remains undefeated in conference play so far after three Big 12 matches.
Despite all the success, there are still some things the Red Raiders are working on to get better as they prepare to host Oklahoma State this weekend.
"We're not strong in all the same areas, but we definitely set each other up for each other's strengths," Adams said.
Kilgo has her own strengths but said there are things Adams does that she has a hard time believing.
"I feel like Sam really carries the team," Kilgo said. "You know you throw up an overhand and Sam's running towards the net to volley and that blows my mind because ill like turn instead or something like that."
Kilgo is working hard to make herself unforgettable like Adams and said with Petty's help she'll surprise everyone.
"T.P. has worked with me on just drilling balls right at me and that's probably the spot that I need the most work," Kilgo said. "Everyone already figured it out, so you know I'm just going to surprise them next time they come at me. [They] won't expect it."
Kilgo and Adams both said it is by the support from their team and coaches that they have been able to succeed. And they've had to do more than just show up on the court each day and play. Both take time to come into Petty's office asking questions about what extra things they can each do to improve their game.
Those daily extras are what Adams said makes this the perfect time to strike. Adams said she and the entire team are excited for the opponets they are going to face in the remaining season and are confident they have built enough momentum to do some damage.
"Not a better time to do it than now that's for sure," Adams said.
A word to the wise for opposing teams - It's hard to hit a moving target.