National

2023 NCAA Championships: Iowa State women set for program's first QF

Arthur Kapetanakis | May 17, 2023


When the Iowa State women's team punched their ticket to the historic, combined NCAA Championships at the USTA National Campus, the Cyclones also made history of their own by reaching the quarterfinals for the first time in the Division I tournament.

 

It's the latest milestone for head coach Boomer Saia and his program, which has steadily climbed toward the top of the college tennis world since he took over for the 2018-19 season.

"The last five years, I think we started at No. 215 in the country, and we got a lot of great character players to come in and buy in and kind of achieve the impossible—maybe what a lot of people maybe thought was impossible at Iowa State," the former junior college player said on Tuesday's media day.

 

"So I think all of us have enjoyed this ride. It's been an incredible four or five months and I cannot wait to get back out there with this team on Wednesday."

 

Read more on usta.com: Best of NCAA media day

 

The 11th-seeded Cyclones will face third seed North Carolina State on Wednesday night for a place in the Final Four. NC State is led by Diana Shnaider, who broke into the WTA's Top 100 earlier this season as she split her time between the college and professional level. But after all their achievements this year, Iowa State will not be overawed by the opponent or the occasion.

 

"As a team we talked about it and we all agreed that we wanted to do something special," said  junior Sofia Cabezas. "And I'm just so happy that we have been able to do that. We wanted to make history and we're doing it."

Iowa State at the NCAA Championships team banquet. Photo by Julio Aguilar/USTA.

The Cyclones notched 12 Top 50 wins this season, including a 4-1 home victory against UCLA in the Sweet 16. They were a perfect 7-0 at home this spring—but adding to the intrigue of their special season, they've done it while hosting matches at a local high school in Ames, Iowa, and a local tennis center in Urbandale, Iowa, while they await construction of a new facility on campus.

 

The added wrinkle has done nothing to slow the team's rise. Instead, their season continued to gain momentum with three NCAA tournament wins at the high school site, victories that earned them a spot in Orlando.

"For us, just honestly the opportunity to go play, wherever that might be, we've built a lot of momentum going forward. And so it's been awesome," said Saia, who is blossoming as young coach along with his program.

 

"These guys have created such a home-court advantage no matter where we're playing and so I’m really proud of the atmosphere we've created. We had amazing, amazing support from Cyclone Nation in our regional and super regional. So that was really fun. And to be able to host those matches in Ames definitely helped separate us, I really believe."

 

Cabezas pointed out the team's spirit as the driving factor in their success, regardless of the playing venue: "I think it doesn't really matter where we play." she said. "We just go out and compete for each other. That’s our standard."

 

From humble beginnings—and a humble home venue—the Cyclones have arrived on the big stage at the USTA National Campus.

 

For more information, including tickets, draws and schedule, visit the USTA's NCAA Championships homepage. For all the latest news from the Division I, II and III tournaments, visit USTA.com's news landing page for the event.

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