URBANA, Ill. — Nebraska senior Mary Weatherholt knew her first match Wednesday at the NCAA singles championships wouldn’t be easy.
She faced UNLV’s Alexsandra Josifoska, whom she beat 6-3, 6-1 just a few weeks ago in the second round of the NCAA team tournament. That match was tighter than it looked, she said.
But just like in the first meeting, Weatherholt persevered and won 6-4, 6-4 to advance to the next round. She’ll play California’s Klara Fabikova on Thursday.
“Both of us were playing against a pretty good side wind,” Weatherholt said. “She’s really good at moving me around, so I just tried to do the same to her.”
The 11th-ranked Weatherholt (26-1) trailed 2-1 in the second set when rain and lightning moved play indoors. That’s when Weatherholt took over, earning her first win at nationals. She lost in the opening round last year.
“It’s nice to get that first win,” Weatherholt said. “I’m really looking forward to doubles starting tomorrow, too.”
Weatherholt will team with fellow senior Patricia Veresova in the 32-team doubles event. They’ll face Georgia State’s Masa Grgan and Abigail Tere-Apisah in Thursday’s first round.
Weatherholt said it was good to be back in action. She, Veresova and assistant coach Hayden Perez stayed in Illinois after NU lost to North Carolina in the round of 16 last Friday. That meant a lot of hanging around, although it was exciting to watch some of the top players in the country.
Weatherholt will have to do some stretching and icing to get ready for her doubleheader Thursday.
“There are a few things on my body that aren’t working 100 percent,” Weatherholt said. “That’s just what happens at the end of the season.”
Weatherholt got some big news on Tuesday when she was named the winner of the ITA/Cissie Leary Award for Sportsmanship.
The All-American recently became the first Husker to win 200 matches and has also been a standout in the classroom and in the community during her five years at Nebraska.
She was named the NU women’s student-athlete of the year for all sports and earned a Nebraska student-athlete HERO Leadership Award for her commitment to community service. She’s a two-time Big Ten women’s tennis athlete of the year and the team captain for three seasons.
She could frequently be heard shouting encouragement to her team and was even known to do some rapping before matches to motivate her team.
“I think that was the key” to winning the award, Weatherholt said jokingly. “I just did some different stuff to keep it fun.”