With Bek now making moves, Tigers have chance to host regionals
By Will Vandervort
CLEMSON — Josipa Bek wears her emotions on her sleeve. Whether it’s pumping her fist and yelling “Go Tigers!” after winning a point following a long rally on the tennis courts, or wiping away a tear as she tries to describe what the last four years at Clemson have meant to her, the senior tennis player leaves nothing to the imagination.
Bek, along with fellow seniors Keri Wong and Nelly Ciolkowski, played her final regular-season home match Sunday at the Hoke Sloan Tennis Center in Clemson. And though the Tigers beat NC State 6-1, Bek left the tennis courts somber, hoping Sunday’s match was not her last one in Clemson.
“It’s very emotional for me,” Bek said. “I can’t help but remember all the moments and the matches we have had here the last four years. It was very tough in the beginning, but we found a way to win today. It was very special to me, Keri and Nelly.
“The last four years have gone by in the blink of an eye. There are a lot of memories here. We hope we can make one last run and play one
more time here in Clemson. We have a chance to maybe host a (NCAA Regional). We are really, really close right now.”
With Sunday’s win, Clemson (15-8, 8-3 ACC) finished fourth in the ACC standings and earned a first-round bye in this week’s ACC Tournament. The Tigers can possibly lock up hosting an NCAA Regional by advancing to the semifinals of the ACC Tournament. To do that Clemson will have
to beat the winner of the Virginia vs. Wake Forest match on Friday.
The Tigers toppled Virginia 6-1 on April 7, and beat Wake Forest 7-0 this past Saturday.
“We have put ourselves in position and that’s all we can really ask for right now,” Clemson Head Coach Nancy Harris said about being a possible regional host. “We would love to play one more time here. I know the girls would love to see Jo, Keri and Nelly play at home one more time. We have some work to do. No matter who we play in the ACC Tournament, it’s going to be tough.
“But, yes, we certainly would love to see our seniors have another home match.”
It would be especially pleasing to see Bek have another opportunity. Thanks to an injury at the start of the season, the Croatia native has not had the senior year she envisioned after coming off a 32-11 campaign in 2011 as a singles player, and as the NCAA runner-up in doubles after teaming up with Wong.
“There were some tough moments in the last semester,” she said. “I have tried to find my way back. I’m getting better. I’m trying to get back on the courts and finish strong.”
Since moving down to third flight in singles, Bek has been stronger. Thanks to Sunday’s 6-1, 7-6 (7-5) victory over NC State’s Ashley Miller, Bek has won four straight matches and earned her 10th victory of the year.
“Jo is really coming on. She is getting stronger,” Harris said. “I like our lineup right now. Anyone of our top five players can play number one. I like what we are doing with the doubles, though we need to get better, especially if we are going to go far in both tournaments.”
If Bek continues to rebuild her old form, odds are Clemson will go far.
“I know we can get stronger from all of this,” she said. “I know we can finish the season strong. I know we will do well in the ACC and then we will try to move along in the NCAAs. I know we will be better because of this.”