Cowgirls continues to test mettle against nation's best

Jordan Bishop/Stillwater News Press Oklahoma State senior Marina Guinart returns a ball against Wyoming. Guinart and the Cowgirls go to Arkansas on Friday before a home match against UCLA.

STILLWATER, Okla. — Chris Young is willing to put his schedule these first two weeks against anybody in the country.

Not only did the Oklahoma State women’s tennis team play the first international collegiate match against Duke to start the season, but the Cowgirls have also faced Tulsa, Virginia and Kansas – all top 25 teams when OSU beat them.

It’s part of the reason why Young – whose Cowgirls come in at No. 9 in the initial USTA rankings – made the schedule the way it is. He wants to test a team that is filled with a lot of newcomers.

It doesn’t get any easier as OSU heads to undefeated Arkansas for 1 p.m. match Friday before coming back for a 3 p.m. match Saturday with the UCLA in the Michael and Anne Greenwood Tennis Center.

“I think that is what you want to do early in the season is challenge your team and put them in some really uncomfortable situations that aren’t really ideal,” OSU coach Young said. “I’m not sure many teams would go on the road and play at Arkansas and then come home and play UCLA. I think that has been the mark of our program is to make our kids a little uncomfortable and they will be prepared for anything.”

The Cowgirls (4-1) travel to Fayetteville, Arkansas, for a match in which Young said shows how good the region is becoming. With the Big 12 having half of its teams in the USTA rankings – No. 8 Texas at the highest – there are good league matches for OSU, as well as ones in the region like the Razorbacks (6-0).

“I think for us, we are able to find really good opponents close by with the teams in our region really improving,” Young said. “I think it has really made our schedule a lot better in the fact that we get a lot of teams in this region. With the way that our program has improved, it has given teams in this region hope that there is some good things that can happen in this part of the country.”

When the Bruins come to town, Young said it is just a continuation of what the OSU program has been able to do since the construction of the Greenwood Center in 2014. Last season, the team brought in national names like Florida and Miami, along with Virginia in last week’s ITA Kickoff.

The No. 5 Bruins tout two players ranked in the top 120 in singles, including No. 11 Elysia Bolton. UCLA also has three pairings ranked in the top 40. It will be a tough test, but Young said it will be good for his squad and for the community as more and more of these teams trickle in to see how the facility is with OSU hosting the NCAA Championships next year.

“When you are building a program and building a product, you want to have things that attract people,” Young said. “… When you build a tennis center with this facility and especially with us hosting next year, a lot of teams want to come in and see what it’s all about before the NCAAs next year.”

The Cowgirls have won four straight since their loss to the No. 2 Blue Devils and though the Bruins (2-0) will be tough, it will only prepare OSU for when it heads to the ITA national indoor championships next week in Seattle, Washington.

OSU clinched a berth in the 16-team field by winning its regional last week with a victory against the Cavaliers and a thrilling win over the Jayhawks.

“By the time we get to national indoors, there won’t be anything to surprise us,” Young said. “Getting a win over a conference opponent who has a lot of seniors and experience and really wanted to go to the national indoors, I think it was really a great battle between the two teams.”

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