By Joshua Koch
Big 12 Syndication/The Daily Toreador
Since taking over the Texas Tech women’s tennis program in 2009, Todd Petty and his players have been a work in progress as far as winning is concerned.
This season, however, has shown the work is paying off — a program-first win against Texas on Friday is just more proof of it.
“That the program’s in the right direction,” Petty said about what he takes away from the victory. “You never know — I mean, we have a great record this year; hat’s off to the girls. But our ultimate goal is to be in the conversation for a Big 12 (Conference) title.”
After handing the No. 23 Longhorns (10-5, 5-1 in Big 12 play) their first conference loss of the season, the Lady Raiders have put themselves into that conversation.
No. 45 Tech (14-4, 4-1) is now tied for second in the conference standings with Baylor and is right behind league leaders Texas and Oklahoma.
The Longhorns and Sooners are scheduled to meet in Austin on April 10.
Unlike teams like the Longhorns and Sooners, the thing making the Lady Raiders a viable threat this year are freshmen, not veterans.
Half of Petty’s starting lineup consists of freshmen Samantha Adams, Haley Fournier and Nikki Sanders. Adams, Fournier and Sanders play in the No. 2, 5 and 6 spots.
And, like previous matches, the freshmen made an impact on the outcome of this contest.
After taking the doubles point, the Lady Raiders only needed to win three singles matches to claim the victory.
Adams struggled at the No. 2 spot, dropping a quick match to Krista Damico, 6-1 6-2 — the loss snapped Adams’ eight-match winning streak.
In the No. 6 spot, Sanders beat Elizabeth Begley in straight sets, 6-1 6-4, giving the Lady Raiders a 2-1 advantage at that point.
Sophomore Elizabeth Ullathorne, who occupies the No. 1 spot this season, defeated No. 21 Aeriel Ellis, 6-3 6-4. Ullathorne had to overcome an early 3-0 deficit to take the second set.
“It was just special, because this season I’ve had some really close three-set matches, some top-ranked players, and had chances to win and haven’t been able to convert,” Ullathorne said. “To do it today at home in front of a home crowd and against Texas, it was just special.”
At that point, the Lady Raiders were one victory away from securing the upset.
In the No. 5 spot, Fournier took the first set 6-2 but had to battle a little more to get the second.
Fournier led Texas’ Juliana Gajic, 6-5, in the second set — and with the match on the line, Gajic sent her return long, giving Fournier the 6-2, 7-5 victory.
“It just felt really good. Because everybody hates Texas, we hate Texas,” she said. “This is just what we’ve been waiting for all season, and it’s just a great feeling that I was able to clinch the match for the team.”
Tech would drop its final two singles matches to bring the final score to 4-3.
Petty said this win is just another step for his squad, and they have not accomplished their ultimate goal just yet — earning a trip to the NCAA tournament.
“We’re not done yet,” he said. “We’ve definitely put ourself into the conversation for postseason play, but we’re not a shoe-in by any means. We’ve got to take care of some matches. Iowa State’s a good team; that coach over there has done a phenomenal job, they’re getting better every year, and we can’t have a relapse against them.”