Editor’s note: Sixth in a series of articles examining how each BYU program will stack up against its new conference foes. Today’s program: women’s tennis.

BYU women’s tennis was put on the map thanks to legendary head coach Ann Valentine. During a 27-year coaching career, Valentine accumulated 427 victories, making her the second-winningest Division I coach in NCAA tennis history. She led the Cougars to 15 conference championships and coached 31 All-Americans. Valentine was also named the 1995 Wilson/ITA National Coach of the Year and is a Women’s Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame inductee.

The Cougars also had a nice run in the early 2000s, including six NCAA postseasons during seven seasons from 2001-07.

Yet the 2007 Mountain West Conference title and 2007 NCAA Tournament are the last conference championships or postseason appearance BYU has claimed. Head coach Holly Hasler, herself a former BYU All-American, has had BYU trending upward her previous five seasons at the helm, but the Cougars are still looking for a breakthrough.

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Big 12 men’s tennis: Cougars will face uphill battle

In their final season as members of the West Coast Conference, Hasler and the Cougars went 6-3 in conference, finishing fourth, with a 13-9 record overall. Highlights from the season include sweeping No. 44 Utah, the first win over the Utes since 2009, and Cougars Emilee Astle and Jacque Dunyon defeating the No. 1-ranked doubles team in the nation against Pepperdine. Bobo Huang was named to the Singles All-WCC First Team, while Astle and Dunyon were named to the Doubles All-WCC Second Team.

Huang, Astle, and Dunyon all return for BYU, as does most of the roster from last season. Junior Kendall Kovick, a transfer who previously played at West Virginia, also recently signed with Cougars.

Big 12 women’s tennis

Texas has most consistently been the Big 12’s cream of the crop. The Longhorns won NCAA titles in both 2021 and 2022 before finishing last season ranked seventh, their sixth-straight top-10 finish. Texas has gone 45-2 during the Big 12 regular season over the last six years and won both the regular season and tournament crowns last season.

But that doesn’t mean other Big 12 squads aren’t strong as well. Since 2015, six different teams have won the conference tournament and five different teams have finished atop the regular-season standings. Nationally, Texas had to beat rival Oklahoma to win the 2022 NCAA title, while Oklahoma State finished national runner-up in 2016.

As a sampling of the strength of the conference, just take a look at the final 2023 ITA rankings. Texas was seventh, Iowa State eighth, Oklahoma 13th, Oklahoma State 19th, Kansas 23th, Baylor 36th, Texas Tech 38th, UCF 39th, TCU 46th and BYU 75th. Iowa State and Texas reached last year’s NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight; Oklahoma the Sweet 16; Baylor, Kansas and Oklahoma State the second round and Texas Tech and UCF the first round.

How will BYU fare?

The 2022-23 season should see a few conference wins, but BYU’s first year will likely see them in the bottom half of the standings. BYU is stepping into a buzzsaw, but the experience of great competition and Hasler’s leadership will likely make the Cougars more and more competitive as time goes on. And don’t be surprised to see them return to the NCAA Tournament in the next few years.

BYU doubles team fives each other during match against Washington in 2023. | Brooklynn Kelson, BYU Photo