Dizdar diary: April 25
This past week has been a very emotional one. On Wednesday, April 18, Ristine (Olson) and I played the last home match of our collegiate careers against Texas A&M. I still cannot believe it!
Before we started the match, the coaches and the team had a little "Senior Ceremony" on the center court for us, and, of course, we cried. It was not the best way to prepare for one of the most important matches of our season, but we couldn't have done it any other way. The tears were just our way of showing appreciation to our dedicated fans, the University, our teammates, and everyone involved with Texas Tennis.
We carried emotions into our playing, but these were fierce, competitive feelings. We all knew that this match could make or break us in a way, and that if we won it, we would be one step closer to concluding our regular season as Big 12 champions (tying for first place with Baylor).
The start wasn't promising. We lost the doubles point, and Courtney (Zauft) and I dropped our singles matches. I felt bad because I was unable to bring my team a win on my last home match, but I struggled quite a bit on the court playing and running for balls, after being completely activity-free for two weeks.
However, I knew there was one thing I could do for my team, and that was to scream and cheer for the rest of the girls that were still fighting hard. At this point Ristine, Sarah (Lancaster), Vanja (Corovic) and Stephanie (Davison) were all in their third sets, going toe-to-toe with their opponents.
Finally, Sarah brought us the first win to put us on the board, but we still needed to win all of the remaining three matches to bring home the State Farm Lone Star Showdown trophy.
The games were getting more intense and the crowd started to really get into it. People were screaming and losing their voices as they ran between Ristine's bottom court, and Vanja's and Steph's top courts. "Ris" got up 6-5, but was down 40-0 in the game. However, she did not let that put her down mentally.
She didn't give up on that game and she composed herself, took some really brave shots and rallied back to deuce. The drama continued as she and A&M's Nicki Mechem, had several ads to win the game. Finally, Ristine finished it off with a huge forehand in the corner that forced an error and gave her the best "farewell" in front of her home crowd. She also gave Texas its second point.
With huge momentum on our backs and great excitement, everyone gathered around the top courts to support Stephanie, who had a 5-1 lead in the third, and Vanja, who was tied at two-all in her final set. Just as we all thought, our third victory would come in a matter of minutes. Sarah Foster of A&M started to come back and suddenly the score was tied at five all in the last set…it was a little nerve-wracking to say the least!
But, our little freshman justified her new nickname - Roger Federer - and courageously concluded the match and joined us at the sidelines to pull for V and the final point that we needed.
At this point, the real DRAMA began!
After almost four hours of playing in the extreme heat, we had a freshman competing against an experienced senior, ranked No. 24 in the nation, who had found herself in this situation many times before. Vanja, on the other hand, got to feel the pressure of deciding the team's destiny for the first time.
To make the whole scenario more interesting, the match went into a tie-breaker. The heat was getting to both of them, and at one point, Vanja told us that she might faint. But, she found the strength from within, closed the breaker 7-5 and brought the victory home.
It was definitely the best way to conclude our last home match and it was the best way for Vanja to remember her freshman year. I don't think our excitement could be expressed by words; it was great for us to hold that trophy together and feel like our season, after all the struggles, had just taken a new turn.
We swept Missouri and Kansas State this past weekend to conclude our regular season officially claim our part of the Big 12 regular season title. We got back late Sunday night, took Monday off to rest, recover, and recharge, and are now ready to go back to Kansas City and compete for the Big 12 Championship tournament title.
The team is feeling good and there is an abundance of positive energy to take us through these next few weeks of this spring semester. We look forward to going to the tournament and putting all of our efforts into taking that title before starting the NCAA Championships.
Before I conclude this entry, I would like to give special thanks to a couple of people:
Miss Barbara, Sarah Lancaster's grandma, who has been such a wonderful supporter and has attended all of our matches without ever failing to surprise us with her delicious home-made sweets.
My aunt Denise, for always being there for me and watching me play with the biggest smile on her face. Through these last four years, she has represented my entire family that never got a chance to watch me play at Texas.
Beverly, our assistant coach of my first two years, who has been more like a mom to me, providing amazing support and honest advice for every aspect of my life. I hope one day I get to show her just how much she has meant to me and do something that would express my gratitude.
Bill and Sharon, Betsy and Ken, Mikey and Jim, Henry, and all the other special people who have been with our team since the day I got here and have carried their enthusiasm and positive thoughts on the girls playing.
Many people have made our experiences that much better and more memorable through their support and involvement, so with this I would like to give them one big THANK YOU from our team. We couldn't have made it without you and I hope you all stay with Texas Women's Tennis for many years to come. You are one of the reasons why Texas' great tradition keeps going and why the Longhorns always stay at the top.