“I hope that the foundation that was laid for these girls over the past four years will be built on by the incoming freshman class,” Van Heerden said. “I think there’s an incredible group here that does so well and I think they’ll step up and be amazing leaders. The Bears walked out with their heads held high as they defied the odds and made it to their first ever NCAA Tournament in program history. Along with that, the Bears finished with 20 wins and earned a hard-fought SLC Tournament Championship for the first time in Bear history. The Bears pushed the Cowgirls the best they could in doubles play and were on the brink of winning Court No. 1 before the Cowgirls took the 2 and 3 courts. The senior pairing of Rada Manataweewat and Ma fell 6-1 at No. 2 to begin the match. Vasupongchai and Nonoyama were handed their first loss of the season in doubles play as they fell 6-4 at the No. 3 to conclude doubles play. Xin and Van Heerden faced the #23 ranked doubles team in the nation at the No. 1 and were moments away from winning as play was halted at 5-4. We know who we are, but others need to know it too.” HEAR FROM MARLI VAN HEERDEN: Freshman Chunxi Xin faced #26 ranked Katarina Stresnakova at the No. 1 and showed zero fear playing the talented senior. She took three points in set one and had two in the second before the match concluded. Stresnakova was named to the All-Big 12 First Team before NCAA Tournament play and had 22 wins entering the match. From late nights in hotels, dancing in restaurants, listening to crazy music — those are the moments that will be treasured.” I’m super proud of my seniors and how well we fought for this. I wouldn’t have wanted to do this with anybody else. For us, it wasn’t just about tennis, it was about making the memories and showing the rest of the world who UCA is. “We didn’t know what to expect,” Wharton said. “Playing in it is different in a really good way. I think the travel, the warmups, the practices – everything about being here has been a great experience. Van Heerden talked highly about the underclassmen on the team and thinks they will be able to build off of the success they enjoyed this year. To me, it was as positive a loss as I could have imagined having.” Playing the match, I thought we played as good as we could have under the circumstances we faced. We got a little excited on the big points and maybe needed to be a little more focused. I wish we could’ve played the big points a little better because I think the match was closer than the score showed. STILLWATER, Okla. – The Central Arkansas tennis team saw its season end on Friday night as they fell to the #15 Oklahoma State Cowgirls in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Bears had to battle the Cowgirls in front of a sold-out Oklahoma State crowd at the indoor Greenwood Tennis Center. The match was moved to the indoor facility as heavy rain took over Stillwater all afternoon. The Bears finished the year with a combined singles record of 95-56 and doubles record of 49-21. They will say goodbye to three seniors, including Van Heerden, as they begin to look ahead to next year. When asked to describe the last four years, Van Heerden was very proud of all that they accomplished and will miss making unforgettable memories with her teammates. “Going from a team that lost every year to a team with winning records and being able to be a part of setting those records both individually and as a team has been very sweet,” Van Heerden said. “I’m going to miss the team chemistry the most. We’re going to forget about the tennis we played, the results and how we felt during matches but we’re never going to forget the fun times we had. Although the score shows a clean sweep by the Cowgirls, the Bears showed the Oklahoma State crowd why they made it out of the SLC with duels at the No. 1, 3 and 6 courts. Senior QiLi Ma held a 5-3 set one lead before falling 7-5 on court No. 6. Senior Marli Van Heerden dropped a heartbreaker set one 7-6 as Marina Guinart won the tiebreaker 8-6 to reach 7. Guinart led the Cowgirls in wins with 25 and never lost in Big 12 play. HEAR FROM HEAD COACH CASEY WHARTON: COWGIRLS 4, UCA 0 The Bears entered singles play in an unfamiliar position as they trailed 1-0 for the first time since April 6. The Cowgirls started singles play with a 6-1, 6-3 win at the No. 4 as #94 ranked Bunyawi Thamchaiwat defeated Yada Vasupongchai to go up 2-0. Sophomore Mei Ishimura took the court at No. 5 for the first time since April 5 and fell to Cowgirls Tennis Female Athlete of the Year Sofia Blanco 6-2, 6-3. Down 3-0, the Bears were battling to hang on but ultimately fell at the No. 2 court 6-1, 6-4 to drop the match 4-0. Wharton was pleased with the way his team performed in the spotlight and was thankful for the opportunity to be in the NCAA Tournament.