As Chloe Hule’s ball landed inches over the line, Catherine Gulihur smiled, turned her hat backward and shook her opponent’s hand.
With that point, Gulihur won her first appearance in singles play in almost two months as part of the Oklahoma State women’s tennis team’s 6-1 win against TCU inside the Greenwood Tennis Center on Sunday afternoon.
TCU (3-7 overall, 0-2 Big 12) is the first opponent Gulihur has played singles against since Jan. 12 against Oral Roberts, OSU’s fourth match of the season.
Gulihur, a sophomore, defeated Hule, a senior, 6-4, 6-2.
The No. 12 Cowgirls (11-1, 2-0) have consistently used Gulihur in doubles play, but freshman Dariya Detkovskaya had taken her place in singles after the opening weekend. Gulihur had wrist surgery in the offseason, and OSU coach Chris Young said she had some setbacks in her recovery that caused him to take her out of the lineup.
“I think, for me, it’s really important as a coach to protect these kids and put them in situations where they can be successful and not just throw them out there unless they’re 100 percent,” Young said. “This week, she’s had probably one of her better weeks of practice… I think coming back from injury sometimes can be difficult, especially when it affects her ability for a certain shot, but she’s been able to adjust and adapt on her backhand side, and she looked really good today. So, I think she’s somebody that can continue to play higher in the lineup and strengthen our lineup.”
Young said he planned to play Gulihur but waited to see how she played in doubles before deciding. After Gulihur and partner Alana Wolfberg defeated Stevie Kennedy and Margaret Polk 6-1, Young changed the singles lineup to put Gulihur on court six.
Young said if Gulihur continues to play the way she did Sunday, she could become a regular in the singles lineup again.
“I think it’s only going to bring out the best in her,” Young said. “It’s gonna push the other girls who aren’t in the lineup if she takes that spot. I think good competition is healthy for the team.”
This was Gulihur’s second singles win this season. She won her first appearance in the Cowgirls’ opener against Abilene Christian on Jan. 11 before falling that evening against Wichita State. Her match against Oral Roberts did not finish, but she won the first set 6-1 and was leading 3-2 in the second.
Gulihur said she has missed playing singles and enjoyed playing again.
“Practice matches are fine and all, but it’s not the same as a real match and the environment and how intense it gets and how into it I get,” Gulihur said. “(I) really want to win and play well and just bring everything I do in practice into a match so badly. I’m just so happy.”
When Gulihur wasn’t playing singles, OSU was relying on freshmen on courts three through six. If Gulihur continues to play, she will provide OSU with one more experienced player to push the Cowgirls through Big 12 play.