For the second time in school history and the second year in a row, Iowa State tennis is headed to the NCAA Championships in Cary, North Carolina.
With this year's first-round berth coming against South Carolina, there's a sense of deja vu. Back in 2020, the Cyclones upset the No. 24 ranked Gamecocks 4-2 to advance to the round of 32.
This time around, the two squads are evenly matched as South Carolina is ranked No. 28 and Iowa State is ranked No. 32.
In addition to the team being selected for the NCAA Championships, Thasaporn Naklo became the first Iowa State tennis player to be selected to compete as an individual at the NCAA Championships.
Making the NCAA Championships for the second year in a row was very important to head coach Boomer Saia and his team, as it served as a statement for the direction the program is heading in.
“It kind of proved to us and maybe everybody else that last year wasn’t just a one-year wonder,” Saia said.
After a shaky start to the season, South Carolina was dialed in during conference play, finishing with an 8-5 record in SEC play. This conference record included six wins over ranked opponents and three ranked wins in one week during early April.
The Cyclones have experience facing ranked opponents as well, as all but one of the teams in the Big 12 are ranked. Saia mentioned having this difficult schedule has helped Iowa State tremendously, and the players understand that they can take down any squad they face.
“Build your own house,” Saia said. “You can get caught up in what other teams are doing and their level of play. I think at the end of the day you just kind of have to worry about your own team.”
As for the rematch against South Carolina, it's not something Saia is worried about. His team is focused on bettering themselves and playing at their highest level come match day.
“Absolutely I think they’ll be ready for some revenge, and so we have to be prepared going into this match that we’re going to get their best effort,” Saia said.
The event is set to begin at 10 a.m. Saturday and will be aired on the TennisOne App.
The NCAA Championships will begin May 23 and will be played in Champaign, Illinois.