The change of weather and scenery is what the Oklahoma State women’s tennis team needs to shake off the slow start.
Four straight losses against Arkansas, UCLA, North Carolina and USC sent OSU outside of the top-10 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Ranking. The Cowgirls (4-5) check in this week at No. 13 as the only ranked team with the sub-500 record.
This weekend, they travel to Alabama for the eight-team Blue-Gray National Tennis Classic tournament. The Cowgirls will enter as the No. 1 seed with their first match against Auburn scheduled at 11:30 a.m. Friday. OSU is looking to convert the top seed to the title, and coach Chris Young said being the top seed displays the quality of the program.
“That is the best part of being at Oklahoma State,” Young said. “Every time we play we have a target on our back. We’ve been in the top 15 for five or six years. People know we are the team to beat to win the tournament. Our girls know we have to play hard every single time out.”
The week off and the warm weather in Alabama are the catalysts that OSU is looking for while hoping to hit the restart button on the season.
Senior Marina Guinart said she is eager to snap the skid.
“I think it’s exciting for us to play in the tournament because we have been losing four matches in a row,” Guinart said. “So I think it’s good to be here in the tournament to get it evaded in our head. So I think it’s very good for us before we play the first match and get some more confidence.”
OSU has arguably one of the toughest schedules in the nation. Four out of its five losses are against top-10 teams.
Guinart said the schedule helps create the mentality that can fit well for the team at the end of the season.
“I think we have the toughest schedule in the country, so we have to think this way and we are going to play tougher teams from now on that we have been playing up to this,” Guinart said. “I think it’s good to play hard teams so we know where we are at.”
After three games at Alabama, OSU won’t take the court until March 8 with a home game against Gonzaga, the penultimate game before conference season. Young said he welcomes the slower pace after seeing his players face off against six ranked teams out of nine matches so far.
“I think mentally, being healthier helps the girls feel more confidence and the depth of our lineup gets stronger again,” Young said. “When you look at the schedule, we go right out of the gate. We needed a little chance in February to catch our breath. I think we will be able to have it now and once March hits, we have to strap it up and get ready to go.”
The last time the Cowgirls participated in the Blue-Gray Classic was in 2016 when they defeated Pepperdine in the doubles-only match in the final to win the title. A special feature of the tournament is that the players stay with host families throughout the weekend. Young said it has created bonds between himself, the players and the community.
“We have really good host families that we stay with for so many years now and we are looking forward to see them again,” Young said. “These girls have built relationships with the host families and they keep up with them throughout the years.
“Two of the families we see in another event, they travelled to California a couple years ago and they are one of the host family in this event. There is a host family that we had a few years ago that I haven’t seen in a while, so I’m going to meet up with them (Thursday) night. I continue to send them gears of our team and they support us throughout the year, so it’s pretty cool.”