Wichita State Shockers

Strong schedule boosts Wichita State’s women’s tennis team to No. 14 in national rankings

Colin Foster used no restraint in scheduling for Wichita State’s women’s tennis team this spring.

The Shockers played practically every brand-name school in the region, scheduled five doubleheaders and won enough matches to ascend to No. 14 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings.

“I went for it all,” he said.

Foster usually compiles a challenging non-conference schedule to balance out the weakness of the Missouri Valley Conference. With an experienced team returning, he knew the risk-reward tilted greatly toward the Shockers. The ITA rankings are decided by a points system that starts with a team’s best four wins and goes to its best 10 when NCAA regional berths are decided.

“Losing to the better teams, it really doesn’t hurt you,” Foster said. “And if you can get a big win against, even a top-50 team, you get a lot of points for that.”

While rising to WSU’s highest ranking (No. 13 earlier this month), the Shockers (16-3) knocked off then-No. 35 Oklahoma, then-No. 61 Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, then-No. 33 Washington, then-No. 23 Kansas, then-No. 46 New Mexico, then-No. 50 SMU and then-No. 18 Tulsa. Its losses are to No. 13 Oklahoma State, No. 16 Texas A&M and No. 33 Arkansas. Foster maximized his play dates allowed by the NCAA by playing two matches in Columbia, Mo.; Lincoln, Neb.; Lawrence and at home.

With those wins, Foster said he believes WSU’s schedule should hold up favorably at the end of the season. That could help with seedings in NCAA play. While he expects the Shockers to fall out of the top 16 as MVC play weakens the schedule, bidding on one of 16 regional sites is a possibility. Unless a school decides not to bid, the top 16 are guaranteed to host a four-team regional.

“We tried to get as close to 10 good wins as we could,” Foster said. “I think we’ve got enough of those good wins that we’re going to stay in the top 30. A lot of things are going to have to go our way to stay in the top 16.”

The Shockers returned five of their top six players from last season’s 24-4 team that made a seventh consecutive NCAA appearance. Sophomore Gabriela Porubin moved to No. 1 singles after playing No. 2 last season and is ranked No. 87 nationally. Junior Giulia Guidetti, not part of the regular lineup last season, played No. 4 singles in recent matches.

“Gabby is certainly playing with the confidence and belief it takes to win at No. 1,” Foster said. “It’s certainly a different animal up there.”

Porubin and Julia Schiller are WSU’s No. 1 doubles team and own wins over Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Washington, Kansas and Tulsa.

“We’ve only lost three doubles points through 19 matches,” Foster said. “To be capitalizing on the doubles points in those tough matches is probably the difference.”

WSU plays No. 65 Kansas State on Monday in Rancho Mirage, Calif., a spring-break trip for both schools that will also include a stop at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. The Shockers return home to play Texas-Arlington on March 31.

On the road — WSU’s baseball team (4-8) is 0-5 on the road entering this weekend’s series at Cal State Fullerton (6-6).

The series starts at 3 p.m. Friday with junior Sam Tewes (1-1, 6.91 ERA) facing Fullerton’s Blake Quinn (2-1. 2.65).

Until Tuesday’s 4-2 loss at Oklahoma, pitching issues drailed the Shockers, who carry a 6.20 ERA into the weekend. Last weekend against Sam Houston State, WSU led 9-1 after five innings and lost 15-11 in the opener. After Willie Schwanke and reliever Cody Tyler shut out the Bearkats in a 2-0 victory, WSU trailed 1-0 after five inning and lost 13-8.

WSU plays at Fullerton for the first time since 2001.

Softball at home — The Shockers (9-9) have lost three of four games against strong competition entering Saturday’s home opener against Northern Colorado (3-13).

The series starts with a doubleheader at noon Saturday at Wilkins Stadium. The teams meet at 11 a.m. Sunday.

The series starts an 11-game homestand for WSU. The Shockers lost 4-3 at Oklahoma State on Tuesday after going 1-2 at No 23 Nebraska last weekend.

Paul Suellentrop: 316-269-6760, @paulsuellentrop