With 74 victories in hand, Samantha Adams, Nikki Sanders and Rashmi Teltumbde are the winningest senior class in program history and have led Tech to a pair of Big 12 titles and three straight NCAA apperances.
None of them expected that when they first began as Lady Raiders.
In the four seasons before their freshmen years, Texas Tech finished one season with a winning record while finishing another at an even .500.
“(Coach Todd Petty)’s recruiting us to Tech, he definitely promised a lot of big things for the program,” Adams said. “I believed him, but not necessarily to the full extent.”
Coming in on faith is easier said than done.
In 2005 and 2006, the Lady Raiders finished fifth and fourth, respectively, in the Big 12, but other than those two years, Tech was a constant in the bottom half of the rankings.
“I just felt like we had a lot of catching up to do,” Adams said. “At first, it seemed like in the fall, when we were grinding through workouts, you couldn’t see the results right away. You couldn’t see how much you progressed, but as we started getting results and really seeing how good our team could be, it was easier to believe.”
In 2011, Adams’ and Sanders’ first season, Tech advanced to the NCAA tournament.
A year later, Teltumbde joined the squad, and not only did Tech advance once again to the postseason, the Lady Raiders won the Big 12.
“It just started with little goals,” Teltumbde said. “Let’s beat Texas. Let’s beat A&M. As we beat them, I feel like it kept increasing. We started seeing goals which were further away and bigger to accomplish. I think that’s what started it all — little victories.”
The next season, the Lady Raiders repeated as Big 12 champs and earned a berth into the NCAA tournament.
Now, for the third year in a row, Tech is headed back to the NCAAs, where the Lady Raiders will face Ole Miss in Los Angeles, Calif.
“They mean everything,” head coach Petty said. “These three were the missing piece for what we’ve accomplished to this point and really what Texas Tech tennis has in the future. They’ve really set the tone for what it’s like to be a Lady Raider tennis player. Each one of them have brought in something different, and each will leave something behind that will be tough shoes to fill.”
Adams is currently the modern-era career doubles leader with 90 career victories, and she ranks second all-time in career combined victories with 175.
She has served as the team captain the past two seasons and has been the cornerstone of Lady Raider tennis.
“Watching Sam Adams grow from a young freshman to a leader now and playing on top of the lineup for two years for two back-to-back Big 12 championship teams is pretty amazing,” Petty said.
Sanders is No. 1 in the Tech record books with 99 career singles wins and 187 career combined wins.
In her four years at Texas Tech, Sanders has produced four straight 20-win seasons.
She is also 34-1 at home, including winning a school-record 31 straight.
“Nikki’s individual development as a player has been incredible from someone who was not as highly recruited as she should have been — we’re lucky she wasn’t — to setting all types of records” Petty said.
Since Teltumbde’s arrival at Texas Tech, the Lady Raiders have gone 57-21.
While she has played No. 1 through No. 4 in the singles point, she has secured the highest doubles winning percentage.
Teltumbde has gone 67-21 in doubles the last three years.
Tech has gone 62-14 in winning the doubles point since her arrival. In the three seasons prior, Tech was 37-26.
“Rashmi really doesn’t get as much press as she should because she really was that missing link at the top of the lineup,” Petty said. “She’s really come into her own.”
After the NCAA tournament, these three seniors’ careers at Texas Tech will be over, but their legacies will last.
Teltumbe hopes Lady Raider tennis keeps building and winning the Big 12.
Sanders hopes the newcomers to Tech tennis continue to work hard so the high standard she helped to set will never lower.
As for Adams, she doen’t want the culture to change.
“I think part of the reason we all work so hard is because we treat our team as a family,” Adams said. “People aren’t going to work as hard if they don’t care for their teammates. The only way you’re going to put everything into the program is if you really trust your teammates and want everyone to do well.”
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