Mountaineers still seek first Big 12 tennis win

NORMAN, Okla. — Coach Miha Lisac thinks it’s about time. It’s been six seasons since the WVU women played their first Big 12 tennis match, and in all that time they have yet to make a mark in the conference win column.

It’s a feat that has not gone unnoticed.

“This is still very much as a young program, as a young team, and we have been working on building this program to the point to where we will belong into the Big 12,” Lisac said. “Not just against certain teams but against everybody. Now to get there, there is a little bit of a path to take.”

Since 2013, the Mountaineers are 0-47-1 against Big 12 opponents. The latest defeat came March 16, at No. 50 Oklahoma.

The final tally was 4-2. But the Mountaineers (4-6, 0-1 Big 12) came out of it believing they let an opportunity to get that first conference win slip away.

“Unfortunately, today, we kind of let a couple of those (matches) slip through our fingers, so the end result was too far down,” Lisac said. “But with the amount of opportunities we had, we absolutely had the opportunities to turn this match into our favor, so that’s the positive that we’re taking out of today.”

Yet, the WVU coaches and athletes do not believe it is a disparity in talent that has caused them to be unsuccessful in the Big 12. With the likes of Giovanna Caputo, Lyn Yuen Choo and Paula Goetz, they can hang with most teams.

However, it’s the mental head games the Mountaineers play on themselves that they must overcome.

“I guess to get past it, just stand your ground the whole time and just keep believing and fighting,” freshman Anne-Sophie Courteau said. “Pretty much all the matches are close, so you know that you’re able to compete well against them and just keep playing the same game plan and keep going through your shots.”

Lisac agrees it is not a talent problem. WVU won its share of individual matches when taking on even some of the best teams in the conference.

Yet, when it’s time to take that step from being a threat to a contender, WVU has come up short.

“One of the things we have to kind of own is, we need to believe. Where the program has been in the past, that belief doesn’t necessarily come automatically,” said Lisac, who is in his fourth year at WVU. “In the past, the program wasn’t always competitive in the Big 12, so in order for us to start to believe more and more and more, we have to be putting ourselves in positions.”

When Lisac talks about taking a path to success, it means getting to the point where they no longer accept being close.

“One of those matches we will be able to close in our favor, and that’s going to turn the tide completely for us,” Lisac said. “So, it’s still kind of a building process into getting to that point but belief is huge in that way.”

Today, the Mountaineers have another opportunity to break through the Big 12 ceiling they have been hitting for five seasons. They face No. 19 Oklahoma State in Stillwater.

The Cowgirls are 9-1 on the season and opened their Big 12 slate Saturday, against Iowa State. Their loss was a 4-2 battle to No. 11 Ole Miss, in January.

“Oklahoma State is just like Oklahoma,” Lisac said. “I mean, a very talented team. They’ve had a good program for a long time and we know that they will come ready to play, that they’re not going to just necessarily just give us opportunities. We will have to go out and prepare those opportunities, but I want to see us continue to get better and better at closing those opportunities out when they are there.”

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