The final matches: Tennis plays Cal and Stanford for senior day

After going winless against California and Stanford in their career, three Cougar senior women’s tennis players seek to remedy that in their final home matches.

WSU (17-6, 2-5) host No. 1 Cal on Friday and No. 19 Stanford on Saturday. This weekend, though, means more than just any other match. Records and wins don’t mean much to the seniors being out there and competing the team.

Senior day brings a goodbye to Maria Biryukova, Trang Huynh, and Lize Leenknecht. Biryukova and Leenknecht have spent four years in Pullman while Huynh spent just one. Leenknecht, who arrived in Pullman from Belgium four years ago, has felt at home in the Palouse.

“I truly love this school,” Leenknecht said. “I’m definitely going to miss everything about it. I think the best part is playing with your best friends, and having the best coaches.”

Biryukova has mixed emotions about her last matches at home as she has spent countless hours with her teammates and coaches.

“On one hand, it’s exciting to start my career,” Biryukova said. “But at the same time I’m leaving something big and meaningful behind.”

Having been with the program the past two seasons, assistant coach Robin Cambier knows senior day is a time to reflect, but at the same time focus on the match at hand.

“Getting to know them the past few years has been a lot of fun,” Cambier said. “It should be more of an honor that you got through four years of competing. You get to play for the last time in front of your fans, your family, the people you’ve been working with at WSU.”

Although Saturday is a cause for celebration, the Cougars still have one thing on their mind. They want to upset Stanford and enjoy their last match at home.

“I want to win on my senior day,” Leenknecht said. “They [her teammates] want to win for us.”

Huynh has plans to celebrate the day especially if the Cougars win.

“I think for senior day we should be excited and celebrate. I want to do special stuff on our senior day.”

Cambier echoed Huynh’s statement and believed that this day is a cause for celebration, but the focus is on the match first and foremost. Then after the match is finished is when they can truly take it all in.

“You ultimately have to focus on the match because if you put too much pressure on yourself or emotion on yourself, you can’t perform. Enjoy and embrace that day, then it’s go time.”

Having a combined knowledge of experience and time spent at WSU, the three departing seniors left some words of wisdom for the players returning next season.

“It’s definitely a lot of hard work, but it’s definitely worth it and will make you better,” Biryukova said. “There are a lot of things that might be considered an obstacle and if you keep working hard, you will become stronger.”

Leenknecht echoed her fellow seniors sediment. 

“Enjoy every single minute of this journey, because it all happens so fast,” Leenknecht said.

Huynh looked to the future of the women’s tennis program for her departing words, where she sees promise moving into next season.

“They are very talented and have potential to be a top-30 team in the country,” Huynh said. “I think that if they keep working hard, they will be really good.”

Huynh’s final words for her teammates in their future years here at WSU, “good luck.”

The women’s tennis team hosts California at 1:30 p.m. on Friday and Stanford at 10 a.m. on Saturday.