After a short break from competition, the K-State tennis team will look to bounce back from its first loss of the season. The No. 45 Wildcats are back in action this weekend with a pair of matches against Houston and in-state rival Wichita State.
After improving to 7-0 on the season with a win against Arkansas-Little Rock on Feb. 19, K-State tasted defeat for the first time this season, falling 4-1 to the No. 37 Golden Hurricane on Feb. 20. Though they were not able to pick up their eighth win of the year, head coach Steve Bietau said the Wildcats still enjoyed plenty of success, especially at the top of the lineup.
“Most of the struggles against Tulsa were due to Tulsa being the strongest team we’ve played so far,” Bietau said. “We actually played reasonably well in that match, particularly in the top three singles positions. We weren’t able to sustain it long enough to beat them, but they’re a pretty tough team. I wasn’t dissatisfied with how we played.”
The occupants of those top three spots, freshman Petra Niedermayerova, senior Antea Huljev and sophomore Karla Bonacic have combined for a 21-2 singles record this season. Huljev, the team’s only senior, picked up the 50th win of her career in a match against Drake on Jan. 23.
While Bietau admitted the team doesn’t know much about Houston, which the Wildcats will host at 2 p.m. at the Body First Tennis and Fitness Center, he said the extra time off since their last match has given the team the chance to regain its footing and focus on getting back in the win column.
“The little break from competition last weekend gives us a chance to work for a longer period of time, so that’s really good,” Bietau said. “(Houston) is a school that’s had strong teams in the past, but we don’t know that much about them this year.”
The Shockers, however, are a team that K-State has plenty of familiarity with. K-State was scheduled to travel to Wichita for this year’s edition of the annual rivalry match, but Wichita State requested that the match be played at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan., on Sunday.
According to Bietau, that wasn’t a difficult decision to make, as it effectively removed a road match from the Wildcats’ schedule. There may have been some extra incentive for the K-State head coach to agree to the change of venue, as he coached in Hutchinson from 1980-84.
“(The move) was really at their request,” he said. “From my perspective, it was taking an away match and moving it to a neutral site. That certainly doesn’t hurt us. We were due to play there and they asked if we could move it to Prairie Dunes, which I’m familiar with.”
Competition against the Shockers is set to start at 3 p.m. The weekend matches mark the end of the Wildcats’ nonconference schedule, which Bietau said is significant due to K-State’s high volume of underclassmen.
“This is a team that’s still pretty young,” he said. “We don’t know how good they are yet, and this is going to give us another chance to find out a little more about them before we start our Big 12 schedule.”