Head coach Steve Bietau likes the direction his Kansas State tennis team is headed these days.
The 60th-ranked Wildcats were victorious in Boston two weeks ago — defeating William & Mary 4-3 and then No. 74 Harvard 5-2.
K-State has another big outing this Saturday when the Wildcats host No. 23 Tulsa at 11 a.m. at the Body First Tennis and Fitness Center.
“Our team is becoming more competitive,” Wildcats head coach Steve Bietau said this week. “We’re really getting started here, after a long fall where they put in a lot of hard work.”
K-State is led by Petra Niedermayerova, who has many accomplishments already under her belt. The junior nabbed both the Big 12 Player and Freshman of the Year in 2011 and won the conference singles title in the same year.
In her sophomore year, Niedermayerova went to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA singles championships.
Niedermayerova is ranked 15th nationally this season with a career record of 64-28. So far she is 16-5 this season.
Niedermayerova is followed by senior Karla Bonacic as one of the main leaders of the team. She also pairs with Niedermayerova in No. 1 doubles.
Last season Bonacic posted a career-high 22-9 singles record and led K-State in Big 12 action with a 7-2 mark.
For her career as of today, Bonacic is 60-37 and is poised to move into sixth place on the school career singles win list after four more victories. She’s been ranked as high as No. 65 nationally.
Bietau said the Wildcats have been able to be more balanced as a team this season, and haven’t had to rely so heavily on Niedermayerova and Bonacic like they have in the past.
“We’re clearly a different team than we’ve been before,” he said. “The biggest difference is that we have more places we are playing well.
“Last year it was Petra-Karla, Petra-Karla, all the time. We were always a threat at No. 1 and 2, but that was pretty much the story.”
Things changed recently in Boston.
Against William & Mary, freshman Ivana Kubickova won at No. 3 singles and senior Ana Gomez Aleman won from the No. 6 spot.
In the match against Harvard, the No. 2 doubles team of Kubickova and senior Carmen Borau Ramos won 8-1. The Wildcats won four of the six singles matches with wins from Niedermayerova, Kubickova, Aleman and sophomore Amina St. Hill, who served from the No. 6 position.
“In Boston, all of our doubles were better,” Bietau said. “Everybody helped us win that match (against Harvard.)
“One piece is that we are playing better in more places, and the second thing is that there has been some progress made mentally. I think we’re a little tougher team, and most of it is from our Fall conditioning.”
Bonacic has noticed the momentum as well.
“In Boston, I just saw a completely different team from before,” said Bonacic, who came to K-State from Croatia. “I saw everyone fighting and it was just amazing.
“I just feel like everyone is so ready and so excited to play — and it makes me more excited.”
Bonacic believes she hasn’t shown everything just yet either, as she approaches her final season of collegiate tennis this spring.
“I won’t say I’ve reached my peak,” she said. “I think there is more of me coming.
“I think I’m playing pretty good. I don’t feel stressful or anything. I trust my team and I trust my coaches. I feel like my game has been improving every year.”