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Cowgirl tennis team's 'rollercoaster' season comes to an end

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Doubles duo Ayumi Miyamoto (right) and Raquel Gonzalez (left) were highlights of the season, going 14-2 and earning a top-15 ranking. 

The Cowgirl tennis team's season was exactly like a roller coaster.

High highs, low lows and over in an instant.

After a 4-1 loss against Stanford in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, the season ended for OSU coach Chris Young and the Cowgirls. They finished fourth in the Big 12 with a 16-8 record. 

“I think the girls did a good job with the team that we had,” Young said. “I think there has been a lot made that we wound up playing pretty much most of the season without our top four from last year. So, for the girls that came back from last years’ team, plus the new ones, to be able to do what they did and make this a competitive season for us is good.”

Twists and Turns

A good roller coaster needs to have its fair share of shocking movements to keep the rider entertained. However, for the Cowgirls, a calmer coaster would have been preferable.

Even before the season, trouble arose regarding star player Lisa Marie Rioux and her remaining eligibility. She practiced as if she was on the team, but Rioux’s appeal to the NCAA failed in February. The season's gameplan had to be redrawn, with doubles partners and court alignments shifted.

Geography. Usually acting as the nemesis of fourth-grade academic bowl contestants, this time it targeted the Cowgirls' postseason lottery. With the top sixteen being hosts for the NCAA Tournament, the rest of the field of play is split and divided among the cream of the crop.

The Cowgirls, sitting 18th in the ITA rankings -- two spots out from hosting -- expected a competitive draw out of the final matches. Instead, a rule mandating schools within 400 miles of a host site to travel to those destinations stranded the Cowgirls in Stillwater. As a result, the Cowgirls were sent to the Stanford Regional. The Cardinal boasted only two losses.

“I think we just go to change it where it really goes off of your ranking,” Young said. “For us, there was nowhere within 400 miles that we could go to, so then we get sent to fly anywhere. Really what has to be done for the future is matching up teams like one versus 32. (No.) 32 goes to one as a two-seed, and it just goes on down the line.”

The Thrills

The most impressive win of the season came against Texas. The Longhorns were the defending national champions, but the Cowgirls went to Austin and slayed the giant. Texas stole one back during the Big 12 Tournament, but the win still holds as a marquee achievement the team can carry into the offseason. 

As a doubles duo, Ayumi Miyamoto and Raquel Gonzalez sit as the 15th-ranked doubles duo, with a 14-2 record. When postseason subsides, they could take a crack at earning All-American status. 

For other athletes, this was a year of emergence and growth. Freshman Lucia Peyre had an excellent first season in Stillwater. Between match-clinching sets and intense court three play, Peyre has been battle tested early into her career. This can be said regarding senior Kristina Novak, who was faced with competing on court one. Her experience showed in intense, grueling matches, no matter the outcome.

The Ending

Overall, the Cowgirls had a solid season. While the rollercoaster plunged to some low places, it also elevated them to sky-high statuses. With only two players walking out of the Greenwood Tennis Center, Alana Wolfberg and Martina Zerulo, Young is optimistic about 2024.

“It will be a very competitive team and a very competitive roster,” Young said. “I think it will be one of the more talented rosters that we’ve had since I’ve been here. I think it is a team that will be able to compete for championships.”