May 19, 2011
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STANFORD, CA – Klara Vyskocilova knows what Clemson’s recent history in the Sweet 16 is, but forgive her if she isn’t too concerned about it.
Though the Tigers have been to the Sweet 16 five straight years now, this is Vyskocilova’s first time on the big stage, and she is enjoying every minute of it.
“I’m ready, and I’m kind of excited,” said the true freshman Thursday. “We know a lot about Florida from when we played them in the winter in Virginia. So we know what to expect. I’m also excited because this is the NCAA Championships.”
Getting to the Sweet 16, where the Tigers will play second-ranked Florida Friday at 3 p.m. (EST) at Stanford’s Taube Tennis Center in Stanford, CA, is expected at Clemson. The Tigers have made it to the Round of Sixteen seven times in the last eight years. However, getting past this hurdle has been a tall task as of late.
The last time the Tigers (21-10) advanced out of the round was in 2005, when Clemson made its last of two consecutive appearances in the Final Four. Getting over this hump is something Josipa Bek has been preaching to her younger teammates.
“It’s a big success to be here in the Sweet 16, but it’s not like it’s the position we want to stay in,” said Clemson’s No. 1 singles player. “We made it here during [ITA Team National] indoors, but we made it past this round so we are trying to do the same.”
But, that’s easier said than done. Clemson is going up against a Florida squad that knocked the Tigers out of the ITA National Championships back in February, and the Gators are playing as well as anyone in the country right now.
Bek says she and her teammates learned a lot from their previous match against the Gators.
“We saw we can play with the best teams in the country,” the four-time All-American said. “We proved that against UCLA in the Indoors and we were in it from the first ball to the last ball against Florida, so I think that we will try to do the same tomorrow.
“We will correct the things that we did wrong last time so we will have a new opportunity tomorrow.”
Because she is a senior, Laurianne Henry says the excitement that centers on the Sweet 16 has really hit home. She feels this could be the year that the Tigers make that jump and advance.
“I feel, it seems, that everyone is more together than the past teams I have been a part of,” said the lone senior of the group. “There is more energy. You can tell that we are ready to go out there and do this. That’s how I feel.”
No more was that evident than at the end of Thursday’s practice session. The entire team got together and shot a homemade video as they introduced themselves individually, while showing entertaining skills on the tennis courts.
Clemson Head Coach Nancy Harris can relate to what Henry was saying. Though this is perhaps the youngest team she has coached at Clemson, she has enjoyed watching how they have bonded and have become a really close group.
“If you are united together in spirit and fight, that’s what you have to have to win this championship,” the Clemson coach said. “You can’t win it with one person or two or three, but if you get them all together and get them going in the same direction while having fun, good things will happen.
“They love having fun. I hope they bring that spirit to the competition tomorrow.”
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