Rams Sweep Way to No. 2 Tournament Seed

FORT COLLINS, Colo. – Knowing exactly what was at stake was exciting.

No pressure, just a task to complete.

“I was really confident my team was going to get this win. It was our last match, so I just came to enjoy it,” junior No. 1 singles player Radka Buzkova said. “I wasn’t thinking out the seed, so there was no pressure.”

There was a feeling of achievement at the close of Saturday’s Mountain West match with Nevada, pushed indoors to the Fort Collins Country Club due to high winds. The Rams pushed their way to a 4-0 sweep of the Wolf Pack, the team’s third sweep in conference play this year, wrapping up the No. 2 seed for the upcoming Mountain West Tournament in Tucson, Ariz.

It is the highest seed the program has ever achieved entering the tournament – which is back after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic – and earns the Rams a first-round bye when play begins Tuesday at El Conquistador Tucson. They will play Wednesday at 2 pm, their opponent the winner from the 7-10 matchup.

“I think they exceeded any expectations I had. They are just an amazing group, and I’ve enjoyed this entire year getting to know them and watching them,” first-year coach Mai-Ly Tran said. “What makes me happy is they’re doing well, and that makes me happy. I’m extremely proud of this group.”

After winning the doubles point with victories from the Nos. 1 and 3 teams, Colorado State made sure there was no drama on the day, winning at the first three singles spots with only three courts available. Matea Mihaljevic had just finished warming up for her No. 5 singles match when Buzkova put the final touches on her 6-4, 6-1 victory against Nevada’s Anastasia Luneva.

Sarka Richterova left no doubt in her No. 3 singles match, winning in straight sets without dropping a game to Christina Moll Alles, 6-0, 6-0. Between them, Somer Dalla-Bona cruised in a 6-2, 6-1 win over Mariana Campino.

Richterova was like her namesake – pronounced Sharka – smelled blood in the water and never relented.

“Exactly. Sharks in the water,” Richterova said with a smile. “It’s fun. I just wanted to finish with a zero today. It’s never easy to do 0-0, so I was like, let’s keep the focus.”

As well as she was playing, the hard part was keeping her emotions in check and not get ahead of herself. The junior is one who can feed off the emotion of a match and definitely a crowd behind her, but with every part of her game clicking, she didn’t want the mental to sidetrack the physical.

Point by point, she focused on keeping the same vibe without giving an inch.

“I had to keep doing the same thing. That’s the dangerous thing to do is to try to play better,” she said. “That’s the best thing to do because you don’t make mistakes. You just keep doing the same thing. I just love to play at home and in front of people, so it was fun. I’m always trying to be a people pleaser. “

With the 6-1 win at No. 1 doubles with partner Dalla-Bona earlier, they both reached 21 doubles victories on the season, tying them for third in program history in a single season.

While Buzkova’s victory looked almost as easy, deep down it wasn’t for her. She just didn’t feel right.

“Honestly, I didn’t feel that good today on the court. I just tried to stay positive and do what I do well,” Buzkova said. “It doesn’t matter how you feel, you just try to pretend you’re feeling great and helping with the body language. Fake it till you make it and fighting.

“I didn’t feel the ball and I didn’t feel my shots. I just wasn’t comfortable playing, but I kinda worked through it. In the second set, I improved from it, and it felt a little bit better. “

Now at 24-5 in singles play, she stands fourth in program history for the most singles wins in a year.

It’s been that type of season for the Rams, who at 14-7 overall and 8-2 in conference play continue to check off boxes for things never achieved by the program. The eight conference wins are the most in any season, and their four-match win streak is the longest in MW play. The 14 overall wins are the second most in a single season, the record standing at 15.

All seven of the losses have come to teams currently ranked by the ITA, and the program beat Colorado for the first time. No matter what has been next, Tran has seen the team go after it without any of it getting the way.

“I think they took care of business and they wanted to enjoy the experience. It was our last home match, and I think they just enjoy competing and that’s how they approached today, to just go out and win their matches,” she said. “They did a good job of not making (seeding) their main focus. That was just the reward for the win. No matter what they’re going after, they’re trying to win.”

Tran didn’t want to overlook the fact the team played all 10 conference matches this season, which the team wasn’t able to do last year after not having any the year prior when the pandemic hit. It has all felt great, and they don’t want it to end. Richterova was quick to point out there are more boxes to check, the biggest being pursuing the program’s first conference title of any kind.

Again, no pressure. Just excitement to get to Arizona and get back to work.

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