URBANA, Ill. — So much for making history.
So much for the chance to play for an NCAA tennis title.
Nebraska’s Mary Weatherholt had more important things on her mind Sunday than being the first Husker woman to reach the NCAA singles finals.
The senior from Prairie Village, Kan., was more interested in relaying that she had destroyed associate head coach Hayden Perez in Buck Euchre, their card game of choice, before taking to the court and pulverizing another opponent.
“That was the key,” Weatherholt said, laughing. “That gave me a lot of confidence.”
Weatherholt said she’s more concerned about staying ahead of Perez in the count on card games than facing defending national champion Nicole Gibbs of Stanford in the noon finals Monday.
And that might be just the reason she keeps on winning.
Perez said nerves seemed to get the best of Alabama’s Alexa Guarachi as Weatherholt rolled to a 6-0, 6-3 victory, just like they had for the vanquished opponents in many of her earlier wins.
Meanwhile, Weatherholt, who has dropped just one set in five matches, came out firing again, Perez said. “When she finds her game,” Perez said, “it’s hard to derail her.”
The Huskers have worked all season on keeping level heads, maintaining their mental toughness and not letting the moment get the best of them.
The last thing Weatherholt told Perez before she took the court was “HF,” and giggled to herself through the first game as he tried to figure out what that meant. It was have fun.
They’ll try to take that same approach Monday against Gibbs, who needed just 54 minutes to defeat Breaunna Addison of Texas 6-1, 6-1. Perez said the two finalists have similar styles.
“Mary doesn’t give away free points,” he said. “Gibbs is very stingy. They are both very efficient. It’s going to be an interesting matchup.”
NU hasn’t done any scouting all tournament and won’t for Gibbs, who led Stanford to the team title last week. It’s all about Mary, Perez said, and how she attacks the match.
Although the interviews have increased and the crowd has grown — head coach Scott Jacobson arrived Sunday as well as Perez’s family — Weatherholt has stayed loose.
She and Perez will keep the same routine on Monday they’ve had all year. Weatherholt will get treatment, listen to music, they’ll go through their warmup and have a brief talk before Weatherholt takes the court.
The message will be the same as always: stay fearless from start to finish.
Weatherholt (30-1) said it all seems a little unreal but cool. She loves big-match moments like this.
“I don’t care about the result,” she said. “I treat each match the same. I want to give my best effort and have fun. That’s always the goal.”