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Wildcats Set for Conference Tournaments
K-State's Daniel Wood chips to the green during the Jim Colbert Intercollegiate at Colbert Hills Golf Club in Manhattan, Kansas on October 1, 2013. (Scott D. Weaver/K-State Athletics)
April 24, 2014
By Kelly McHugh
Three K-State teams will head to Texas this week for its respective Big 12 Conference championships with women's tennis traveling to Fort Worth, men's golf traveling to Trinity and women's golf traveling to Austin.
It will be a weekend filled with excitement for the three teams, and today's K-State Sports Extra highlights each of them before they represent their school on the conference's highest stage.
Coming off of a Sunflower Showdown victory, the K-State tennis team is ready for this week's Big 12 Tennis Championship.
With competition beginning today, the No. 7 seed Wildcats (9-12, 3-6 Big 12) are set to face the No. 10 seed West Virginia Mountaineers (3-17, 0-9 Big 12) at 10 a.m., at the Bayard H. Friedman Tennis Center in Fort Worth, Texas. The last time the two teams faced off, K-State came away with a 4-3 victory in Morgantown, W. Va.
"I know they're coming off quite a long losing streak, but when we played them it was a tough match," said interim head coach Liz Ullathorne. "Hopefully there are things we can improve from that match, and hopefully we'll pick that up and do better this time around."
Led on the court by senior Petra Niedermayerova, the Wildcats will be in good hands heading into this year's conference tournament. With a career record of 103-42 (.710), Niedermayerova is the first Wildcat in program history to tally 100 singles wins, and, after last Saturday's doubles win over Kansas, she now holds the record for most career doubles wins - 74 - in K-State tennis history. Niedermayerova, ranked No. 51 in the ITA national singles record, owns a 23-9 singles record this season (5-4 Big 12) and, with teammate junior Amina St. Hill, is 9-5 in doubles play including a 3-4 mark in league action.
Though among the best players in the Big 12 during her career at K-State, Niedermayerova knows when it comes to conference play, no match will be easy.
"I feel like the conference is getting stronger and stronger," Niedermayerova said. "I'm not sure about the statistics, but I know a lot of the teams are high ranked and they have a number of players ranked from each team. It definitely shows that the conference is very strong, the competition is very high, and obviously that's a positive thing. When you go to the Big 12 tournament, you really have nothing to lose. You get to look forward to competing at a high level."
The Big 12 currently has four teams ranked in the top 25 (No. 14 Baylor, No. 18 Oklahoma, No. 22 Texas and No. 25 Oklahoma State) with No. 30 Texas Tech and No. 52 TCU not far behind.
Along with Niedermayerova, St. Hill and the entire Wildcat tennis team is excited to get back on the courts this week, and St. Hill said earning the 6-1 win over Kansas last weekend was just what K-State needed to gain confidence going into the tournament.
"We had lost a couple of matches in a row, and it's never fun to lose, so that puts your confidence down a little bit. But to be able to go in and play as well as we did on Saturday against Kansas, it was one of our better matches this semester," explained St. Hill. "It really gave us all a confidence boost and I think it's really important now to go into Big 12s having that as our last memory of playing a match."
The winner of today's match between K-State and West Virginia will face No. 2 seed Oklahoma State at 3 p.m., tomorrow afternoon.
The Wildcat men's golf team begins its conference tournament tomorrow morning at the Whispering Pines Golf Club in Trinity, Texas. Ranked the top course in Texas every year, the Wildcats are excited and ready to get out on the course and take on some of the nation's toughest competition.
"The conference is always very tough," said head coach Tim Norris. "A few years ago the national champion, Texas, did not win the conference tournament. There will be several nationally ranked teams in the top 25 there just like every year. With the NCAA's at Prairie Dunes (Hutchinson) next month, I would not be surprised to see the National Champion come from the Big 12."
In the men's NCAA Golfweek poll, three teams from the Big 12 - No. 2 Oklahoma State, No. 13 Oklahoma and No. 15 Texas - are ranked in the top 25.
Competing for the Wildcats, in order of the lineup, are Daniel Wood, Kyle Weldon, Seth Smith, David Klaudt and Alex Carney.
This season is not only the end of an era for the Wildcats' three seniors who will compete in Big 12 competition for the final time, but also for Norris, who will retire following the season after leading the program for 17 years.
"Whatever it is, pressure, motivation or fuel, I'm just trying to use that in a positive way," said Wood on the feelings going into his final Big 12 Championship. "I do feel a little sense of urgency - if I didn't I would feel a little bit crazy I guess. This is our last hurrah; out of the five players and coach, for four of the six it will be our last time out. Some people might call that pressure, but I think we look at it as an opportunity."
After a season-best fourth place finish at the Cowboy Classic earlier this month, Wood is set lead his team through the tournament this weekend. Along with Wood, though, Norris said he expects big things from his team.
"Being Daniel's senior season, I can feel he has put a strong emphasis on this tournament," explained Norris. "He knows the course and has been able to plan his practices accordingly. I look for Daniel to have a very good outing. Kyle Weldon has played very solid this spring. He too has played at Whispering Pines, so I see him with a good chance to have a top finish. The sleeper or difference maker will be Alex Carney, who has battled a slump this spring. If Alex gets comfortable with the course conditions, he'll be a big boost for us."
The tournament will be 72 holes played over three days - 36 holes on Friday and 18 holes on both Saturday and Sunday.
Competing at the UT Golf Club in Austin, Texas, the K-State women's golf team will look to finish its 2013-14 season strong at its Big 12 Championship.
Bringing a lineup of experienced golfers, head coach Kristi Knight said junior Olivia Eliasson, senior Gianna Misenhelter, junior Carly Ragains and freshmen Katherine Gravel-Coursol and Madison Talley will represent K-State this weekend.
"As always, it will take a team effort," said Knight. "All of these ladies have posted multiple good rounds this year. They have been pushing and pulling each other to get better, and that is important."
Leading the Wildcats this season has been Eliasson, who carded a 2-over par 146 and placed second overall at the SMU Invitational earlier this month. It marked the highest placing by a Wildcat during the 2013-14 season and was Eliasson's second top-five finish of the year.
"Olivia is coming off a great event in Dallas, and she has continued to play well in our team competitions at Colbert Hills," said Knight. "Olivia made a commitment to make a change with her putting this spring and she invested extra practice time and it has paid off."
While Knight has led prior teams into competition at the course during her 19 seasons with K-State, she said only one golfer of her five heading to the event has played on the UT Golf Club before.
"It has been a few years since I have taken a team to UT Golf Club," explained Knight. "It is a good golf course with a variety of holes. Some are very demanding off the tee and some are wide open. Madison is the only one who has played it before. She competed in the Big I National Junior Championship a couple of years ago. She played quite well and likes the course. As with any golf tournament, the weather conditions will determine how it plays and it will be the same for all teams. It is good test of golf as are all the facilities in this conference."
The Big 12 has two teams ranked in the top 25 - No. 11 Oklahoma and No. 16 Oklahoma State. However, Iowa State and Baylor have both obtained top-25 rankings this season and will also pose a threat.
The tournament is set to begin tomorrow morning and will be a 54-hole tournament played over the course of three days.
MAUI INVITATIONAL INFO
The men's basketball team is heading to Maui next fall and travel packages to the Maui Invitational are still available at www.k-statesportstravel.com. The packages feature five- and six-night packages at the Westin Maui (team hotel) and seats behind Wildcat bench for all K-State tournament games. Details are online or by calling 1-866-373-7379. Hurry, the deadline to order these special packages is June 1.