By Joe Ostrica
Bowling Green State University senior tennis player Nikki Chiricosta broke out of a little slump in a big way, picking up a pair of wins that made her the school’s career record-holder in a pair of categories: singles wins and combined victories.
Chiricosta’s doubles win was the 179th overall victory of her BGSU career, moving her past her sister Christine on that list. Christine Chiricosta picked up 178 total victories as a Falcon from 2008-11.
“Breaking the records were definitely a part of my overall goal for my senior season,” Nikki Chiricosta said. “Up until my senior year, I really tried to not pay too much attention to my results because I didn’t want to think about it too much. I always knew that it was in the realm of possibility, but anything can happen so I was mindful of that.
“Because this was a goal of mine, I did not really approach matches any differently up until I was within a few matches of breaking the records. I hit a little slump then because I had the pressure of needing to come through for both the team and then I had the pressure that I could be breaking a school record if I won. Unfortunately, that thought probably lost a few matches for me.”
Chiricosta’s other big personal goal was to increase her first serve percentage. She is often found arriving at practices early or staying late in order to get some extra work in. For a team goal, Chiricosta was looking to build on the success that the Falcons had last season.
“We were able to make it to the Mid-American Conference championship falling short by just one match, so we hope we can continue to remain successful in MAC play and hopefully win a MAC title this year,” she said.
Chiricosta picked up her records in Bowling Green’s 4-3 MAC win over Western Michigan March 22. In addition to winning her singles match, Chiricosta paired up with Katie Brozovich for a win at the second doubles flight.
“It couldn’t have come at a better time because Western Michigan is a big rival of ours and beating them is always at the top of our team goals,” Chiricosta said. “All time our team is 2-38 against them and we have been able to beat them the last two years, so it made the wins doubly as special.”
Christine Chiricosta’s victory total included 89 singles and 89 doubles wins at Bowling Green, and Nikki Chiricosta entered the match with Western Michigan with those exact win totals. Her singles victory over Kathleen Hawkins at the top flight gave her sole possession of the school record on that list.
“It is a special kind of thing that I don’t think many siblings can say they have accomplished,” Chiricosta said. “We have gotten to play on the same team together both in high school and college and have been able to share an awesome experience together. There have been jokes since my sister broke all of her records when I was a freshman with people asking me when or if I was going to break my sister’s records. At the time, I tried to pay no attention to it because I did not want it to affect my play.”
After her breakout season her sophomore year, it became a definite possibility that Nikki would be able to break Christine’s records. Nikki said her older sister was a great exmample to follow.
“My sister set the bar for me in what I should aim to be like,” Chiricosta said. “She was the perfect example for me to follow and really helped shape the way I became successful. She had an unmatched work ethic both on and off the court that guided the way I carried myself throughout my collegiate career, both academically and athletically.
“There was never really a rivalry because my whole family knew that it was coming. I was only within a few matches at the beginning of the spring season my senior so my sister was able to accept the fact that I was going to break it. I will always remember what my sister said after I had another successful season. She said, ‘I wouldn’t want anyone to break my school records other than you and I am happy that you have been able to do so well.’ For her to say that meant a lot to me.”
Chiricosta broke the doubles record first in the match. She and her partner played so well in the match that it wasn’t closely contested, so it didn’t fully set in that she had broken the record.
“My partner knew that I was very close to breaking the record before the match, but I didn’t tell her that I would if we won this match because I didn’t want to make her any more nervous than she probably already was,” Chiricosta said. “Little did I know, she was well aware and hugged me as soon as we won saying, ‘Oh my gosh, you broke the record!’”
Chiricosta said it really sunk in when she broke the singles record because she had a three-set match and played against a solid player.
“Kathleen Hawkins is someone I have considered a rival for years since we both grew up in the Midwest,” she said. “The moment that I won, I looked right up at my dad and teared up a bit because I knew that I had just broken the record. I played really well in the first set and felt like I had control of the match, but she started to play much better in the second set and and ending up winning it pretty easily.
“Rather than getting nervous, I went into the third set with the mentality that I will not give up any game easily and that I did not want to lose another game for the rest of the match. We ended up having a 20-minute game in the first game of the third set that I was able to pull out. After that, I had all of the momentum and was able to win the third set 6-0.”
Chiricosta said the match was special because it came against Western Michigan and it broke the slump she was having in singles play.
“I had lost three or four close matches before this one, and this win made all of those other losses seem worth it,” she said. “It’s a great feeling knowing that my name is in the school records book because it is something I have as evidence of all the hard work and time I have dedicated to this sport over the last four years. What is the most special part about it all is that both my sister and I are able to sit at the top of the record books.
“My biggest goals for the rest of the season are to win the MAC as a team and be selected to the All-MAC team. My goal is to make the first team, but I would be happy to make either one, and it is a very tough feat to do so.”