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Cowgirls carrying confidence into final weekend of conference play

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OSU Catherine Gulihur and Sophia Blanco celebrates a point during Oklahoma State-Baylor tennis matchup at Michael and Anne Greenwood Tennis Center on March 29, 2019.

Before waiting for a nearly impossible scenario to happen, coach Chris Young knows he and his players have to give themselves a chance.

The No. 11 Oklahoma State women’s tennis team (16-6 overall, 6-1 Big 12) sets to wrap up conference play with a pair of road games this weekend.

OSU will face TCU on Friday. Then, the team will travel to Lubbock, Texas to square off against Texas Tech on Sunday to finish the regular season.

After a difficult start of the season, the Young, OSU's coach, saw the Cowgirls surge through the latter half of the season, winning 12 out of the last 13 matches and picking up a victory in the Blue-Gray Classic along the way.

The one loss, which came against Texas, will probably be the deciding factor, though. The Longhorns need one victory against either Iowa State or West Virginia to clinch the conference title. The only case that favors the Cowgirls would require them beating their two opponents this weekend, and the Longhorns must drop both matches against the two bottom teams who combine for one conference victory this season.

Young knows the odd are against him, but he wants to focus on what his team can do to cap off the season.

“We are going to focus on what we need to do and can’t think of what Texas needs to do,” Young said. “At this point in time, it is what it is and we are going to focus on what we can Friday and Sunday. We have two tough matches on the road and we can’t look past those or it won’t even matter.”

Throughout the year, Young stresses about how he wants to build his team to reach its maximum chemistry and potential in the month of April, when the Big 12 tournament and the NCAA championship come into the picture.

The Cowgirls started off the season facing seven ranked opponents in the first nine matches, going 4-5 heading to February. Then, OSU won the next ten matches before losing against Texas. Young described OSU's two dominant victories the following weekend against Central Florida and a sweep against Oklahoma as a “good turning point” heading to the end of the season.

“We are more confident with our game plan from the court and our identity of who we are,” Young said. “Something that we focus a lot on our program is the individual development as each girl has their own development plan and area of focus. I think they are starting to see all the hard works pay off and the girls are very confident about the streak.”

Freshman Catherine Gulihur has been one of the Cowgirls that has enjoyed her improvement throughout the year. Gulihur started the year as senior Sofia Blanco’s doubles partner at the No. 1 position. At the end of the season, Gulihur became a reliable option at No. 6, as Young said he can trust both her and Tamara Arnold to fill in the only position that isn’t “set.”

Gulihur said she feels the same confidence with the rest of the team heading into the final stretch of the season.

“I can’t speak for the entire team as a whole, I feel like we are doing really good right now energy-wise with the work we are putting in,” Gulihur said. “As a freshman, I still feel like my game can still go so much further. There is always more things to work on, but as of now, I am feeling pretty confident for the end of the season and I feel like the rest of the team feels the same way.”

The Cowgirls need to win out the last two matches to ensure at least a second place finish in the conference. Young said as much as he wants his team to get a second chance against Texas should both teams meet in the final of the Big 12 championship, he wants his players to focus on the weekend to get the job done.

“Sometimes you hate to lose one but that is exactly what you need to springboard on,” Young said. “The one that we slipped up on, we still have another chance. We got to focus on this weekend and going into the tournament.

"I think we just focus on TCU and see what takes us from there.”

sports.ed@ocolly.com