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Women’s Tennis Team Heads to NCAA Tournament

Terriers hope to “make some noise” against Oklahoma State tomorrow

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Lesley Sheehan has plenty to celebrate as she completes her 30th season as head coach of the BU women’s tennis team. Under her tutelage, the Terriers have earned their 15th NCAA berth, their 24th regular season conference championship, and their second consecutive Patriot League championship. Sheehan (SED’84) can now add back-to-back Patriot League Coach of the Year honors to her résumé as well.

The Terriers (14-7) entered the conference tournament as the number two seed, triumphing over Bucknell and Army before facing top-seeded Navy on April 26. The championship featured the first-ever meeting between the two programs. Continuing their dominance, the Terriers snapped the Midshipmen’s 12-match winning streak in straight sets.

“We’ve played great,” says Sheehan, who as an undergraduate was the first women’s tennis player in program history to qualify for the NCAA tournament. She was inducted into the BU Athletics Hall of Fame in 1990. “We just finished our conference championship, won that, and played very well during it. This team has been very goal-oriented the whole season. Going into the Patriot League schedule, the team was psyched. They got up for it, and wanted to go to the NCAA tournament. And that’s just what we did.”

BU will take on the number 12 Oklahoma State Cowgirls tomorrow, May 9, in an NCAA first-round matchup in Stillwater, Okla. The Terriers last played a Big 12 opponent in 2013, when they dropped a 7-0 road decision to the then–number 24 Texas Longhorns.

The Terriers are well aware that they face a formidable opponent in the Cowgirls, who posted an impressive 25-1 record this season and have three nationally ranked singles players, Viktoriya Lushkova (16), Vladica Babic (97), and Katarina Adamovic (124). Oklahoma’s doubles team of Lushkova and Kelsey Laurente is ranked 10th best nationally, as well. So the BU players understand that their plate will be more than full come Saturday.

Iryna Kostirko (CAS’18) collected three singles and three doubles victories, earning this year’s Patriot League Tournament MVP award.

Iryna Kostirko (CAS’18) collected three singles and three doubles victories, earning this year’s Patriot League Tournament MVP award.

“It’s exciting to play against a really good team,” says Finland native Johanna Hyoty (Questrom’16). “Oklahoma is ranked really high, one of the best teams in the country. They have a lot of good players, some of the best. We know that they aren’t going to lie down for us, and we’re ready for that. It’ll be a good challenge for us.”

The Terriers can attribute much of this year’s success to Hyoty, who was named conference Player of the Year for the second year in a row. Also for the second consecutive year, she is the Patriot League Scholar of the Year. Along with teammate Barbara Rodriguez (CAS’17), she won the first Doubles Team of the Year Award. Hyoty went 19-11 as the team’s number one singles player this season and clinched the Terriers’ NCAA berth after knocking off Navy’s Sam Droop 6-3, 6-2. Her contribution extends well beyond her prowess on the court, however: teammates and coaches alike value her leadership skills.

“Johanna’s great,” says Iryna Kostirko (SAR’18). “She obviously plays number one for the team and is our captain. She’s been a great role model. I mean, she pushes everyone to do their best, and sets a great example for everyone. I can’t imagine where we would be without her.”

The team’s lone freshman, Kostirko has been invaluable as well. She won all three of her doubles contests and all three single matches in straight sets in the Patriot League playoffs and posted a 14-3 record as the number three singles player. Those stats just earned the Ontario native the Patriot League’s John “Pat” Rooney Most Valuable Player Award.

Despite her exceptional play on the court, Kostirko is modest, preferring to credit Sheehan. “Lesley’s a great coach,” she says. “I mean, she pushes us all to do our best, and she makes sure we all work really hard. At the same time, she’s very understanding as well. Every time I feel like something’s wrong with my game, I go to her immediately, and she always has answers. She’s really helped me become a better player.”

In addition to Hyoty, Kostirko, and Rodriguez, Lauren Davis (CAS’16) also received All-Conference First Team honors, her third. Davis is currently riding a six-match win streak in doubles.

“It’s been another good season,” says Sheehan. “I’m really proud of these girls. Everyone has made contributions, and everyone’s been really upbeat and positive. I know we didn’t do too well last year in Miami, but let’s hope we can go down to Oklahoma and make some noise.”

The Boston University women’s tennis team faces number 12 Oklahoma State in the first round of the NCAA tournament at 2 p.m. tomorrow, May 9, at the Greenwood Tennis Center in Stillwater, Okla. Purchase tickets, $5 for adults and $3 for students, at the OSU ticket office or at the gate. The winner of the BU-Oklahoma matchup will proceed to the second round on Sunday, May 10, facing Saturday’s Arkansas–Arizona State winner. Sunday’s winner will advance to the NCAA final four rounds in Waco, Tex., beginning Friday, May 15. 

Emmanuel Gomez can be reached at mannygo@bu.edu.  

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