Women's tennis to play Northwestern in NCAA Tournament
Bulls to make third tournament appearance in program history
The Bulls are heading back to the NCAA Tournament for their second consecutive season as they get ready to take on the No. 14 seed Northwestern Wildcats in the first round.
The Bulls (17- 3, 8-0 Mid-American Conference) will head to Evanston, Illinois for the second NCAA Tournament appearance with Kristen Maines as head coach. The Bulls celebrated the announcement at a live viewing party of the selection show Tuesday afternoon at Alumni Arena. The team was present to celebrate the announcement of the Northwestern (21-5, 11-0 Big Ten) match-up. Maines congratulated the team and said she expects more big program wins in the near future.
“It is exciting; it’s record-breaking, but above all it really is not surprising,” Maines said after Tuesday’s event. “Just given how talented this team is and the work they put in, this has by far been the most talented group we have ever had. We have a school outside the top 10, so we couldn’t ask for anything more. Now it is time to go to work.”
Buffalo won both the MAC Season Championship and MAC Championship this year, a program first. Maines credited the depth of the team for its success this season. She said having players who are capable of taking a point in all six singles games gives them the ability to win at any level.
Team captain senior Tanja Stojanovska said Buffalo is ready to return to the Chicago area, this time with a chance to earn a program-first win at the NCAA Tournament.
“I’m very excited to go back. This year has been very exciting and special for all of us,” Stojanovska said.
Last year, the Bulls took on the Ohio State Buckeyes (14-8, 7-4 Big Ten) in the first round, losing 4-0. This year, both coaches and players have said the team’s biggest goal was to earn a win at the NCAA Tournament.
Stojanovska said that the added experience compared to last year’s team has been a big help. The addition of the transfer players this year gave the team added depth and maturity. Maines said this year is the time for the Bulls to win, and they have a better seeding than in years past.
“I haven’t looked [Northwestern] up and I won’t until I step on the court,” Stojanovska said. “I don’t like doing that before a match. I don’t want to have any ideas or expectations in my mind. I just want to go on the court and play.”
Senior Lolade Ogungbesan, one of this year’s transfer students, said she is excited to play in her first NCAA Tournament. Ogungbesan was named the MAC Championship’s Most Outstanding Player this past weekend and is hoping to carry that success to the national stage.
Ogungbesan said she doesn't expect nerves to play a role as she enters the last tournament of her Division I career.
“I am going to miss this sport and I want to go out on a really good note,” Ogungbesan said. “This past weekend was amazing and I am still really happy, but now I am looking forward for the opportunity.”
Maines said she is not very familiar with Northwestern and that Buffalo has never played them in program history. She plans to use the time she has to study the team so they are more prepared for the Wildcats.
“I think it is good to play a school we haven’t yet,” Maines said. “There is no history. You go in there with no expectation. We are going to give it all we got to pick up our 15th win.”
The Bulls are currently tied for the second longest win-streak in the NCAA at 14. Maines said women’s tennis can emulate the success of UB’s basketball teams this season.
“They left some big shoes for us to follow,” Maines said. “Buffalo is on the radar because of what basketball did this year, and that is huge. People know Buffalo. That is something we hope to do by making some national noise so people know Buffalo tennis, too.”
The Bulls are set to take on Northwestern on May 11, with a starting time set for 4 p.m.