No. 14 LSU women’s tennis team focused on task at hand, set to host first NCAA regional

The LSU women’s tennis team repeating its one loss and done April 21 performance at the SEC tournament won’t result in immediate five-hour bus ride home this weekend but instead an equally painful shorter trip from LSU’s Tennis Complex to their nearby apartments.

After being bounced in its lone match at the SEC tournament, No. 14 LSU (14-5) as a first-time NCAA regional host is looking to make an extended stay starting with Friday’s first-round 1 p.m. match against Boston University (10-1).

The other half of the regional matches No. 20 Michigan (15-2) against No. 40 Rice (15-6) at 10 a.m. Friday with the winners advancing to Saturday’s second-round match at 1 p.m.

“Unfortunately, the lesson is if you lose, you’re on the bus,” LSU co-head coach Michael Sell said. “We were on the bus about 30 minutes later after the match (4-1 loss to Tennessee in Tuscaloosa) heading home. We want to last longer than that this weekend which is another goal of ours.”

LSU qualified for its seventh consecutive NCAA tournament under co-head coaches Julia and Michael Sell. After placing a bid to host, LSU was notified a couple of weeks ago they made the initial cut to 20 schools eligible to host before being officially chosen during Monday’s NCAA Selection Show as an at-large team to welcome Patriot League Conference Champion Boston University.

“You look at the list and there are some historic names that didn’t get to host this year like Stanford, Duke and Michigan,” Michael Sell said. “For us to be in that conversation is humbling and just a lot of hard work on our end to get to this point.

“The team earned this, they certainly put this high on their list at the beginning of the season to accomplish. This isn’t about one win but an entire season. It’s kind of the standard that they set for themselves which is a high standard. Julie and I have set standards for the program to bring it to a consistent national powerhouse to where we have the ability to start hosting NCAAs. The team went out there and put in the work.”

The milestone for LSU serving in a host role is the latest in a season in which the Tigers enjoyed their best showing in SEC play in 30 years with nine league wins and a fourth-place finish. They’ve also matched a program-high with a No. 9 ranking prior to the SEC tournament.

“That left a sour taste in our mouths knowing we had the ability to accomplish a lot more,” Sell said. “It wasn’t the level that we played with throughout the year. It didn’t take a motivational speech to get these girls back ready. They knew what was in front of them with the NCAA tournament. They know this is their last tournament together and having the ability to play at home, they came out during the next practice ready to get back on the winning side.”

LSU has a core group of seniors led by Taylor Bridges and Paris Corley, both of whom transferred into the program, while fellow seniors Eden Richardson and Luba Vasikyuk have lettered for the past four years and have also been a part of the growth of the program.

“We’re elated to see the progression of where we’ve been to making the tournament as a three seed, a two seed and now to earn the one seed and host,” Sell said. “They’ve been a massive part of this elevation of the program.”

Boston University, which has won its last nine matches, is making its 18th appearance in NCAA play and first since 2017 under veteran coach Lesley Sheehan, now in her 36th season. She led the Terriers to their 27th conference title this season to nail down an automatic bid to this weekend’s regional.

“Their coach has done a world-class job with their program for the 30-plus years that she’s been there,” Sell said. “We know we have an experienced, well-coached team coming at us. We’ll have to be 100 % ready to go.”

Bridges and Corley comprised two-thirds of LSU’s postseason honors on the All-SEC second team along with sophomore Safiya Carrington.

Bridges (13-10 at No. 1 singles) is LSU’s highest ranked player at No. 53 with Corley (18-4 at No. 3) No. 60. Together, they’re the Tigers lone ranked doubles team at No. 84 with a 15-4 record on the No. 2 court.

Sophomore Nina Geissler is 15-7 primarily at Nos. 5-6 singles, Carrington 10-10 at Nos. 1-2 singles, Buyckx 11-6 at Nos. 5-6 singles and sophomore Maggie Cubitt 6-4 at Nos. 3-4 singles.

“To play on our home courts and play in front of our fans is thrilling,” Sell said. “The last couple of matches we had we actually had a fairly great crowd out and we’re hoping to build on that for this weekend.”

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William Weathers

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