This spring season has been none other than record breaking for the Oklahoma State Cowgirls. Coming in as the top ranked team in the ITA Division I rankings for an impressive eleven-consecutive weeks, the Cowgirls are 27-0 on the season and 13-0 in conference play. In addition to their so-far perfect record, the team took home the 2024 ITA Division I Women’s Team Indoor Championship in February, defeating Michigan 4-3 in the final, and just last weekend, they were crowned Big 12 champions for the first time since the 2016 season. 

Photo courtesy of Oklahoma State Athletics

Much like the 2024 Oklahoma State Women’s Tennis team, ITA Women’s Hall of Fame member Lori McNeil also broke records during her two seasons on the team (1981-83). McNeil, the first athlete in Oklahoma State women’s tennis history to be named an All-American (1982), won three Big Eight Championships during her time in Stillwater, including the No. 1 singles title in 1983 and No. 1 doubles title in 1982 and 1983. 

“I decided on Oklahoma State because of the coach. It was a gentleman by the name of Ike Groce,” commented McNeil when asked about her decision to play at Oklahoma State. “I went to visit the school in the summer and I just liked his style.”

Despite playing just two seasons before joining the professional tour, McNeil finished her collegiate career with a .835 (86-17) career singles winning percentage. With 43 singles wins in both the 1981-82 and 1982-83 seasons, McNeil holds the most singles wins in a season by an Oklahoma State player. 

Following her time at Oklahoma State, McNeil would go on to win 12 WTA singles titles and 40 career doubles titles, including the 1988 French Open Mixed Doubles championship. Other notable wins in her career include her first-round victory over defending champion Steffi Graf at Wimbledon in 1994, where she reached the semifinals, as well as upsetting Chris Evert in the quarterfinals of the 1987 U.S. Open, where she would also reach the semifinals. McNeil achieved a career-high WTA ranking of No. 8 in singles and No. 4 in doubles. Additionally, McNeil represented the U.S. for three years in Federation Cup competition. 

After competing on tour, McNeil has stayed extremely active and engaged in the tennis community, serving as the Assistant Coach of the U.S. Olympic Women’s Tennis Team in 2004 and 2008, coaching the women’s team in the World University Games in 2005, working as a High Performance Coach for the USTA from 2004-2012, working for three years at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Maryland, and serving three years as a personal coach for Amanda Coetzer. In 2012, McNeil returned to Houston to become the Director of Tennis at the Zina Garrison Academy, an academy that provides developmental programs both on and off the court for young athletes. Currently, McNeil spends her time coaching at the River Oaks Country Club in Houston, Texas. 

McNeil has received many honors for her work as a mentor and athlete. Among those honors includes being inducted into the Texas Hall of Fame in 2008, receiving the WTA Mentor Appreciation Award in 2006, being inducted into the ITA Women’s Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame in 2006, and being inducted into the Texas Black Sports Hall of Fame in 2012. 

When asked what she would say to this year’s team as they aim to finish out the season strong and bring home the NCAA title, McNeil commented “I would just tell them to enjoy it. Enjoy all that they’ve accomplished. It’s special, they’re making history.” Continuing on, McNeil stated “It’s an exciting time for women’s college sports, obviously tennis is special for me but I’m excited for women’s sports in general. It’s about time that they get the attention that they deserve.” 

For more information regarding the NCAA Division I Women’s Tennis Championships taking place on May 16-24 at the Greenwood Tennis Center in Stillwater, Oklahoma, visit the event page at the link below.

About the ITA Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame – The Intercollegiate Tennis Association Men’s and Women’s Halls of Fame aspire to preserve and celebrate the history and further the development of intercollegiate tennis through the collection of historic memorabilia and with inductions of notable players, coaches, and contributors.

About the ITA – The Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) is the governing body and coaches association of college tennis, both an advocate and an authority for the sport and its members. Comprised of 1,260 colleges and universities, 20,000 student-athletes, 1,700 varsity programs, 3,000 coaches, and 1,350 college tennis officials, the ITA empowers college tennis coaches at all levels to deliver vibrant tennis programs that are vital to their college communities and transformational to their student-athletes. Follow the 2023-24 college tennis season on the ITA website and ITA social channels on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, and YouTube.

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