Wildcat tennis opens on strong note in Norman

Parker Robb | The Collegian Freshman Maria Panaite returns a low shot from Oklahoma's Morgan Chumney in K-State's loss to the Sooners at the Mike Goss Tennis Stadium March 28.

In the first tournament under new head coach Danielle Steinberg, the Wildcat tennis team found success in singles play behind sophomore Livia Cirnu.

Cirnu was victorious in her two matches on Friday. She started off by defeating Nicole Breaux of Arkansas 6-1, 6-4 in the round of 32 and then ended with a round of 16 victory over Abilene Christian’s Lucile Pothier, 6-3, 6-3.

Dating back to last season, Cirnu has now won five-straight singles matches, which ties her career-best win streak.

“Livia is a great competitor, which is probably the strongest aspect of her game,” Steinberg said. “She really lifted her game level today which was great to see.”

Aside from Cirnu, the rest of the team had good success in consolation round singles matches. The Wildcats left on Friday with seven singles victories as a team.

Sophomore Sara Castellano picked up her first victory as a Wildcat in a 7-5, 6-1 win over Kansas’ Maria Belen Luduena in the consolation of the Boomer Draw. Freshman Laura Hopton picked up her first win in her college career in the consolation round of the Switzer Draw over Peyton Jennings of Arkansas.

Steinberg was happy with the results from day one of the tournament.

“I think overall we did well,” Steinberg said. “Our main team goals for today was a positive attitude, compete hard and have energy and the girls did very well on all those. We are not concerned about results at this early point of the year, but more focused on the process and improving specific aspects of each player’s game. Overall, I think the girls did well.”

The Wildcats executed three doubles wins to go along with five singles victories in day two.

Castellano headlined the news for the Wildcats as she won her second-straight match in the Boomer Draw over North Texas’ Anastasiya Shestakova 6-2, 6-1. Combined with her first season at McNeese State, Castellano continues her success with a record of 20-4, 2-1 at K-State.

Sophomore Palma Juhasz was able to break a 10-game losing skid in singles matches with a win over Kansas’ Madison Harrison 7-5, 6-4. This was her first win singles win since March 22 at UC Santa Barbara.

On the doubles side, the dynamic duo of Castellano and Juhasz picked up two wins over teams from Oklahoma 8-5 and Texas Tech 8-6. After dropping their first match of the day, the last doubles win came from Amina St. Hill and Maria Panaite over Kansas 8-6.

“Overall we were pleased with the doubles today,” Steinberg said after Saturday’s competition. “Amina and Maria didn’t start the day very well, but were able to make the necessary adjustments for their second match and they played it well. Sara and Palma had two wins against strong doubles teams. We were especially pleased with their energy and competition level.”

Juhasz and Hopton finished the tournament strong with wins on Sunday in Norman.

After losing her first singles match in the tournament on Thursday, Hopton came back to win three straight singles matches. Juhasz was in the same boat. After losing her first two matches, she came back and won her final two contests.

Overall, the team won 13 singles matches and five doubles matches. Steinberg is pleased with the weekend’s outcome.

“It was a good tournament overall,” Steinberg said. “The girls got a lot of high-level matches and that’s what they need right now. We are working on a lot of different things in practice and going out there and doing it in matches is what we need right now. We are very early in the fall schedule and have a long way ahead of us, but we are encouraged with the girls’ attitude, hard work and overall performance.”

Wildcat tennis will not compete until they go back to Oklahoma to face competition at the ITA Central Region Championship in Stillwater on Oct. 16-19.