Connect with us


OSU Tennis’ Ascension to No. 1 Ranking the Result of Years of Work

“People around the country are starting to say, ‘Wow, look at Oklahoma State and all the things that they do.'”



[Marshall Scott/PFB]

STILLWATER — When Chris Young came to Stillwater in 2009, his Cowgirls didn’t have indoor courts to practice at. Now, they’re indoor national champions.

Young’s Oklahoma State squad is No. 1 in the country for the first time in program history after the Cowgirls went to Seattle and won the ITA Indoor National Championships. The season, though, is really just getting underway as the Cowgirls have 15 meets still to play ahead of the Big 12 Championships and the NCAA Championships — both of which will be played in Stillwater at the Greenwood Tennis Center.

The indoor title paired with hosting NCAAs feels like a crescendo for OSU Tennis, but it isn’t one that started in August or even when the Cowgirls came in second at the 2016 NCAAs. It’s the result of a lot of work from a lot of people, including Young — OSU’s women’s coach and OSU’s director of tennis.

“When I came in Day 1, you have to have a vision, and anybody you meet, you have to get them on board,” Young said. “‘Hey, we’re going to do something special here. We’re going to do something that hasn’t been done before, and you can be a part of that.’ Whether it’s recruits, whether it’s donors, support staff, administration, just selling a vision that we can be a tennis school, that we can be a school that has the ability to do what we’re doing right now.”

Built in 2014, the Greenwood Tennis Center is a 50,000-square-foot facility nestled between Boone Pickens Stadium and O’Brate Stadium. It features six indoor courts, 12 outdoor courts, coaches’ offices, locker rooms and a sports medicine hub complete with a hydrotherapy center. It’s an outstanding facility by college athletics standards — especially in the tennis space. But it didn’t just spring up out of the ground.

Young was instrumental in the fundraising and design of the Greenwood Tennis Center. He said when he sat down with the architect to design the facility, he showed the architect a handful of the best tennis centers in the country and detailed what they did well and what areas they lacked in.

When one gets into coaching tennis, tennis is probably at the forefront of his or her mind. But Young has had to wear a handful of hats in the fundraising and crowdsourcing departments that helped OSU tennis get to where it is.

“In our sport, it’s what you do,” Young said. “If you sit around and wait for people to do it for you, it’s not gonna happen. We understand where we are in the pecking order of college athletics, and if we want to do something special, we gotta get out there and make it happen. You can’t just wait for people to do it.

“A lot of young coaches ask me some of these same questions, and I’m like, ‘Look, it’s your job to make the administration care. It’s your job to make the fans care about tennis because they don’t know that they should care about it. But if you do some things the right way and you sell people on a vision, kids represent the school in the right way, you can be a window to the university. You can create excitement within the department in a way that people didn’t expect, and that’s even cooler.'”

College athletics has seen a change over the past 10 years, mainly pertaining to NIL and the transfer portal.

The portal is thriving in tennis just like it is in other sports. Of the six Cowgirls who competed in the indoor national final, only sophomore Lucia Peyre and graduate student Ayumi Miyamoto started their college careers in Stillwater. Safiya Carrington is in her first year with the program after transferring from LSU. Ange Oby Kajuru is in her first season as a Cowgirl after playing at Iowa State. Kristina Novak is in her second season in Stillwater after transferring from Nebraska. And Ange Oby Kajuru is in her first season with the program after transferring from LSU.

But whereas the portal in football and basketball is often driven by NIL, Young says in tennis, the driving force is different.

“I think for us, it’s opportunity,” Young said. “It’s exposure, but I think the biggest thing is what we’re talking about — the crowds. Nobody has crowds like we have. It’s the way we travel. There’s not another women’s tennis team in the country that flies private planes to all their road trips, but we have donors that step up and do that for us. It’s the way we treat our kids. I think they’re treated as they would at a football or a basketball program, and that’s what I want. …

“People around the country are starting to say, ‘Wow, look at Oklahoma State and all the things that they do,’ and that’s how you attract them. It’s not NIL. In our sport, it hasn’t trickled down to us in that way, but it’s like, ‘OK, you really want to play at a school that values tennis, come to Oklahoma State. Look at the fans. Look at the way they travel. Look at the things they’re doing.'”

Most Read

Copyright © 2011- 2023 White Maple Media