Cowgirls bulldoze Gonzaga for fourth straight win

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Katarina Stresnakova attempts a smash as the Cowgirls take on Gonzaga in the Michael and Anne Greenwood Tennis Center on March 8, 2019.

The Oklahoma State women’s tennis team never lifts its feet off the pedal.

The match had gone for a little more than two hours when sophomore Bunyawi Thamchaiwat clinched as OSU comfortably cruised to a 5-2 victory against Gonzaga.

Playing their first home game since Jan. 26 with the large crowd moving over from the men’s game, the No. 8 Cowgirls (8-5) got it going early. OSU took two early break points in the doubles matches on Court 2 and 3 to build a comfortable 4-0 lead.

A let off in the middle stage allowed the No. 38 Bulldogs (6-3) to crawl back into the match, but OSU was able to finish off its opponent. Katarina Stresnakova and Marina Guinart picked up a 6-4 victory on Court 2. Shortly after, Tamara Arnold and Thamchaiwat clinched the doubles point with a 6-4 victory on Court 3.

OSU assistant coach Henner Nehles said he is proud of the way his players started and finished the doubles matches.

“I felt like we came out of the doubles very strong,” Nehles said. “I thought all three courts played solid doubles point. That gave us good momentum going to singles. Sometimes obviously you want to start strong and your opponents, they have no chance but to step up themselves. They did a good job but at the end, I was very proud for our girls to step up and finish off the match.”

The Cowgirls continued to carry their momentum heading to singles. Sofia Blanco, Rioux and Thamchaiwat crushed their opponents in the first set with OSU taking all but one early advantage.

Blanco then became the first Cowgirl to finish her match as she took the 6-1 victory against Kate Ketels in the second set to double OSU’s advantage.

“I think from the start to the end it was a very good match,” Blanco said. “I played very confident, and stuck to my game plan. I was happy with not only the way I played, but the way I stayed focused throughout the match.”

Rioux soon followed Blanco with a 6-0, 6-2 victory against Graciela Rosas on Court 2. Thamchaiwat finished off Haruna Tsurata with the same scoreline to clinch OSU’s fourth consecutive victory.

“The doubles point is huge in college tennis (because) it carries a lot of momentum,” Nehles said. “All six courts played a very good first set. It gave them a lot of confidence. Players start looking left and right and the energy is high. Everybody is positive and I felt the girls play well.”

The remaining matches were played out. Thamchaiwat’s partner Tamara Arnold followed the train, besting Sara Komer in straight-sets, 6-2, 6-3.

The Bulldogs took two single victories out of this match. In court 1, Stresnakova fell short against No. 7 Sophie Whittle, 6-3, 6-2. In the last finished match of the night, Marina Guinart dropped the third-set tiebreaker, 10-6, after splitting the first two sets against Domonique Garley.

Nehles gives credits to Gonzaga’s victors.

“(Court) one and three, I felt like even we lost, we played two very good players,” Nehles said. “The momentum shifted at the end and I felt like the Gonzaga girls played better at the third-set tiebreaker.”

OSU will have one more match against Wichita State at noon Sunday before the start of conference season. After a tough start, which saw the Cowgirls dropping below .500 heading to the end of February, they have won the last four matches. Blanco said the biggest takeaway from this match is the way she and her teammates are getting back their confidence.

“We have won four in a row,” Blanco said. “I think we are doing a great job with practices and being ready to work. I think that shows on the court. I think everyone is playing with more confidence. I think we are ready for Big 12.”

sports.ed@ocolly.com