SE: Stretton Shines in Debut Season

Millie Stretton has come a long way since she first arrived in Manhattan last August. 

The 6-foot freshman from Edinburgh, Scotland, has been a consistent force in the Wildcat tennis team’s success this spring, and she will strive to continue her progress on the court when Big 12 play begins later this week. 

Stretton has a team-best 10-1 record in dual meet singles action and enters Thursday afternoon’s Big 12 matchup against Baylor coming off of back-to-back singles wins this past weekend. 

“We’re very happy with Millie,” said K-State head coach Danielle Steinberg following Sunday’s 4-3 win over No. 50 SMU. “We’re happy with her both on and off the court. She shows a lot of leadership and she’s very coachable. She takes it all in and listens. It’s great to have a freshman who is that coachable. From August to now, she is a totally different player, but we always knew she had the tools, and she’s still ways away from where we want to see her.” 

In Sunday’s win over the Mustangs, Stretton’s victory over SMU’s Ana Perez-Lopez (6-1, 6-4) was a must-win as, playing in the No. 5 position, it tied the match at 3-3. Her singles win against SMU marked the second victory of the weekend for Stretton. On Friday afternoon, she defeated Denver’s Morgan Barnhill (6-4, 6-4). 

“I think I’ve improved a lot,” said Stretton after Sunday’s win. “My tennis has improved a lot, and, mentally, I’m a lot stronger. I’m feeling very good right now, but even though my tennis has improved, I still feel I have a lot more to show.” 

Stretton came to K-State ranked as the No. 2 player out of Scotland and as the No. 414 player in the International Tennis Federation (ITF) rankings. She said, thanks to her teammates and coaches, her adjustment to K-State has gone smoothly and she has been enjoying her time as a Wildcat. Similar to the success she’s found on the court, Stretton was also quick to find success in the classroom. In her first semester at K-State, she was named to the 2015 Fall Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll. 

“Millie is a great player,” said junior Livia Cirnu, whose dramatic singles victory on Sunday afternoon clinched the match for the Wildcats and their highest ranked win since 2014. “It’s amazing that she’s only a freshman; she’s only lost one match this season. She is a strong player and she’s going to continue building on that.” 

Stretton, who had her own match-clinching win back in February vs. Colorado, has helped K-State to a 7-4 overall record this season and will be counted on to continue her consistent effort during the team’s upcoming Big 12 slate. 

The Wildcats open Big 12 play on Thursday afternoon at 3 p.m., as the team hosts No. 46 Baylor (4-9, 0-0 Big 12) at Mike Goss Tennis Stadium. Baylor enters Thursday’s match coming off of a 4-0 loss to No. 1 Ohio State on Saturday afternoon. 

Though taking on another highly-ranked team won’t be an easy task, Steinberg said she hopes her team’s win over SMU on Sunday gave the group added confidence heading into Thursday’s competition. 

“We are going into the Big 12 knowing that we have to compete,” said Steinberg. “Thursday is a huge match for us. It’s a match that I want to win. I don’t care the name of the school or the color of their shirt, I want to win every match that we play. I think (the SMU win) is great for our team. They now know they can beat a ranked team. Now we can go into the Big 12 knowing that we can win those top matches.” 

The Big 12 conference boasts one of the nation’s top leagues for women’s tennis as three of its teams are ranked in the top 25 (No. 5 Texas Tech, No. 10 Oklahoma State and No. 23 Kansas) while four more teams – No. 46 Baylor, No. 60 TCU, No. 72 Oklahoma and No. 75 West Virginia – are also among the nation’s highest ranked. K-State was also ranked No. 70 earlier this season. 

“The level of tennis is always high,” said Stretton. “We have not played a bad team this season, and I’ve always had a tough match. Playing for K-State, everything matters now. You’re not just playing for you, you’re playing for your team so there’s extra motivation. My goal is to beat as many teams in the Big 12 as I can and to do as well as I can against everyone we play. The goal is to win as much as possible.” 

Following K-State’s matchup with Baylor on Thursday afternoon, the Wildcats will travel to Palm Springs, California, on Monday, March 14, for a non-conference matchup with No. 13 Wichita State before returning to Mike Goss Tennis Stadium to take on Texas at 11 a.m., on Sunday, March 20. 

For a full recap of K-State tennis’ victory over SMU, please click here. To check out the team’s full 2016 schedule, please click here

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