Tennis ties best start in school history

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Following its first loss of the season against Tulsa on Feb. 20, the K-State tennis team had two weeks off to regain its composure and get back into the win column. Not only did the No. 45 Wildcats emerge victorious over the weekend, they did so in historic fashion.

K-State earned victories against Houston and in-state rival Wichita State to push its season record to 9-1. That mark ties the best start in school history, which was first accomplished by the 1989 squad.

“We spent that time off trying to get stronger in general, more specifically working on our doubles,” head coach Steve Bietau said. “I think we’re making progress.”

That progress started in the form of a 4-0 victory against the Cougars at the Body First Tennis and Fitness Center on Friday. Though Bietau said doubles has been an area of concern, the Wildcats opened the competition with a pair of wins in that department. Sophomore Karla Bonacic and senior Antea Huljev grabbed an 8-3 victory, while freshman Petra Niedermayerova and junior Nina Sertic clinched an 8-2 decision to give K-State the doubles point.

Niedermayerova, Bonacic and Huljev also won in singles action to cap off the sweep. Bietau said his team did what it needed to do to win, but admitted that the opponent wasn’t at full strength, which could have affected the final outcome.

“The Houston match was probably not the best measure for us,” he said. “I think they were a little bit banged up and not as strong as they might be otherwise.”

Following Friday’s win, K-State traveled to the Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan., to take on the Shockers in a Sunday match. It didn’t come easy, but the Wildcats were able to escape with a 4-3 win.

Bietau’s squad prevailed in doubles competition once again, winning two of three matches to claim the point. Niedermayerova won in straight sets, while Bonacic and Huljev needed three sets each to pick up wins and clinch the match.

The loss drops Wichita State to 6-7 on the season and gives K-State a 21-19 advantage in the overall series. Bietau said the Shockers are one of the most talented teams the Wildcats have faced this season, even though they don’t have a winning record in 2010-11.

“Wichita State, maybe on the surface and by ranking, is not that strong,” he said. “But they play a brutal schedule and have some losses to great teams. That keeps them from being ranked higher. When you look at the players they have and how they play, they’re definitely the strongest win we’ve had.”

The win against the Shockers marks the end of the Wildcats’ nonconference schedule. K-State will open its Big 12 Conference slate with a road match against Baylor on March 18. While K-State may only have one loss so far this season, Bietau said he still has plenty to learn about his team as league play begins.

“(The 9-1 start) is certainly nice and I’m glad we have that rather than 5-5, but the fact is we really don’t know how good this team is,” he said. “Sunday was a good step for us, but our major tests are still in front of us.”

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