The long wait makes the expectation turn into uncertainty.
Getting into the NCAA tournament isn’t the main priority for the Oklahoma State women’s tennis team, but being in the top 16 to be a host in the regional is a priority.
Senior Sofi Blanco and the rest of the OSU squad had already known they would end up being on the bubble. When NCAA.com host Jeremiah Johnson announced Michigan, USC, and Kansas respectively as the No. 16, 13 and 14 seed, the expectation turned into uncertainty.
Because the only remaining positive possibility for the Cowgirls was being the 15th-seed, the Cowgirls had to wait until the end of the show to hear their name heard. After watching several pre-taped interviews as the producer’s effort to lengthen the show to the desired 30-minute format, Blanco was able to exhale when Johnson finally announced OSU would be hosting a regional.
“We were very nervous,” Blanco said. “I think everyone was excited to see if we were hosting or not. But I think it is a really good regional and we are excited to be hosting. We are hoping to play our best in the last couple of home matches here.”
This marks the fifth consecutive year in which the Cowgirl program has hosted a regional, a streak that started before the program moved into Michael and Anne Greenwood Tennis Center. OSU coach Chris Young said this shows how consistent the program has been in recent years.
“I hope it doesn’t get lost on our fans and the supporters of Oklahoma State that this is the fifth year in a row we’ve hosted a regional,” Young said. “It says a lot about the consistency of the program.”
The regional introduced No. 15 OSU (19-7 overall, 8-1 Big 12) with new and familiar foes. The Cowgirls will square off against Central Arkansas (20-7) at 5 p.m. Friday. If they win, they will face the winner of the Washington State and Miami matchup. That match will be played at 2 p.m. Saturday. OSU defeated Miami 4-2 at home when the two sides met last season.
As a seeded team, OSU is expected to convert the home-field advantage into a place in the Super Regional. Under Young, the Cowgirls have experienced both sides of an upset. In 2016, OSU, as the No. 12 seed, shocked the collegiate tennis world with a NCAA Finals run. However, the No. 9 Cowgirls ended last season with a loss against Tulsa in the second round on their home soil. Young said this is a difficult bracket for his team to fall into, and he said he expects his players to remain focused to not let history repeat itself a year later.
“It has been motivating for the girls and it has been motivating for me,” Young said. “I still have it etched on my mind when Tulsa beating us for the first time in a while and celebrating in our home court. It wasn’t fun at all. I reminded all the girls of that and let them know one team will be celebrating at our court at the end of the weekend, and it needs to be us.”
For OSU's seniors like Blanco, being seeded in the tournament means they have at least one more opportunity to play their final home match at GTC.
“I think there is no better atmosphere than that,” Blanco said. “Going to play my last couple home matches here is a good feeling and I always enjoy playing in front of the full crowd here. I’m happy and so thankful for this opportunity.”