|Vandal men eye championship|
The Idaho men's tennis team had its share of ups and downs during the 2012 regular season, but the Vandals closed the year with a five-match winning streak, including three wins in WAC play, wrapping up the No. 2 seed in this week's Western Athletic Conference tournament along the way.
The Vandals finished the regular season with a 13-13 record, and went 3-2 in WAC play. With the second seed in the WAC tournament, the Vandals have a first-round bye into the semifinals, where they will face either No. 3 Hawai'i or No. 6 Utah State on April 28 in Las Cruces, N.M. Idaho beat both teams 4-3 on the final day of the Regular season in Logan, Utah on April 13.
"It's a tough conference," Idaho coach Jeff Beaman said. "I expect to go out and compete for the championship. That's really going to take every guy going out and continuing to put in the mental focus and the effort that they did to finish the season. We can't take being the two seed as something special. It means that we have a good position in the bracket, but it also means that we play a team that already has played a match to get used to the conditions. We're playing one of two teams that gave us tough matches just two weeks ago."
The Vandals will look to ride the momentum from their current winning streak into the tournament, as the team has been very streaky for the past two months. After a 4-3 start, the Vandals lost three straight matches in mid-February. However, Idaho bounced back with four straight wins. That streak was followed by a seven-match losing streak. But again, Idaho turned it around with five straight wins to close the regular season. At least some of Idaho's ups and downs can be credited to its tough schedule, as the Vandals faced eight top-75 opponents, including five in the top-40.
"We had a really good end to the year, especially after the rough stretch that we had," Beaman said. "We played a really tough schedule, but when you're losing match after match, it doesn't matter if you're playing nationally ranked programs. For the players to stick with it and continue to put the effort in at practice and in matches and turn it around with the really strong finish that they had was impressive."
Idaho's second-place WAC finish is its third consecutive top-3 finish in the conference. If the Vandals win on Saturday, they will advance to the WAC championship match at 9 a.m., Pacific, on Sunday. Top-seeded Fresno State will take on the winner of (4) New Mexico State vs. (5) Nevada in the other semifinal on Saturday.