After three matches of rough weather and rough competition, the Longhorns must endure two more storms in conference play.
Heading into this weekend’s matches with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, the women sit at the top of the Big 12 with a 6-1 record. Coming off a close loss to A&M, the team is in perfect position to flash its trademark resiliency.
“We’ll figure it out by the time we hit the [Big 12] tournament,” said head coach Patty Fendick-McCain “We’ve got a lot more tennis to play. We’ve got two more matches coming up, and that’s going to determine the conference champion. We’ll be ready to go.”
Sophomore Elizabeth Begley has been called the backbone of this year’s team by coaches and teammates alike. Her 29-7 overall record, including a perfect 7-0 record in Big 12 play has garnered her much deserved attention, as she’s given this team all the lift they need to stay near the top.
Gritty play has characterized the team all year long, and as of late, the same can be said of Cierra Gaytan-Leach, who was recently named Big 12 player of the week. In her last three matches, Gaytan-Leach has fought back from deficits to eke out much needed wins and points for the team.
“She’s feeling very confident now, and she’s got a good sense of herself,” Fendick-McCain said. “You can’t say enough about it.”
It’s no secret that newcomers have stepped up all year long to aid a stellar veteran lineup. Freshman Lina Padegimaite has probably been the most impressive in her first season, notching many key doubles wins with fellow freshman Noel Scott, as well as notching an impressive 16 singles wins to this point.
“She’s hitting her stride now, and that’s what we want to see,” Fendick-McCain said. “She’s getting comfortable playing on a hard court. It’s a completely different style of play, a more aggressive style. She’s had to adapt and has done a really good job.”
The three players mentioned above are currently playing the best tennis for the Longhorns. Entering the last stretch of matches before the Big 12 tournament, this key play isn’t coming from the top of the women’s lineup, but rather from the bottom.
“At four, five and six, those girls are playing so well, and they really feel good about their games,” Fendick-McCain said. “We have to get back on form at the top three spots, but four, five and six have been working hard, and they’re feeling it right now.”
With motivation and redemption on the minds of the Longhorns, the Sooners and Cowboys could be in for a disappointing end to conference play this weekend.