Hitting the courts: Play with a Cougar event allowed community members to play with the tennis team


The WSU women’s tennis team gives high fives to the attendees of the social event they held on Friday, Sept. 4.

It’s not often that fans get to step onto the court with Division I varsity athletes. That unique interaction is the basis of the women’s tennis team’s annual ‘Play with a Cougar’ event that took place on Friday.

The main festivities included the opportunity to learn from the coaching staff and players on the team, the chance to compete against the players in a number of different competitions and a dinner social to learn more about the team and its history.

WSU Women’s tennis Head Coach Lisa Hart has been part of the event in each of her 12 seasons with WSU.

“It’s a chance for the community, students and faculty to see how special of a team we really are,” Hart said. “The players have great personalities; they are really positive kids who really do things the right way. They care about academics and being good citizens and being as good of athletes as they can be.”

The players interacted with members of the Pullman and WSU communities by teaching them the tricks of the trade, playing games with them and getting to know their fans.

It was senior Maria Biryukova’s fourth time participating in the event.

“This is amazing,” Biryukova said. “When I play and have a tough match, third set, and am so tired, I look at them and they inspire me to take a deep breath and take the last step and win.”

Seeing the energy and support for the team in an event before the season even starts is a source of inspiration for the players.

“It means so much to me,” senior Lize Leenknecht said. “This is my fourth year and I am really excited for the year of course. It means so much to me that those people come out and support us already. They are fully supporting us as an athlete, as a person and also in academics. They wouldn’t be here if they didn’t believe in us or didn’t support us.”

Cougar tennis begins its regular season with the Cougar Classic on Friday in Pullman.