|Vandal women get 1-seed, men 2|
MOSCOW, Idaho – The Idaho men’s and women’s tennis teams each earned first-round byes into the semifinals of this weekend’s Western Athletic Conference tournament, as the league released the brackets Monday. The tournament features the top six men’s and women’s teams in the league and runs Apr. 25-27 in Las Cruces, N.M.
“That can really help out,” Idaho coach Jeff Beaman said of the first-round byes. “With the conditions – it’s been in the 90s there lately and that’s not something we’re used to – hot, dry, windy, getting that one less match is a big benefit.”
The Vandal women earned the No. 1 seed in the six-team field after putting together a 17-5 record during the regular season. Idaho will face the winner of No. 4 Chicago State and No. 5 Kansas City in the semifinals on April. 26. Idaho beat Kansas City 7-0 during the regular season and did not face Chicago State. Kansas City went 6-13 overall while Chicago State finished the regular season with an 8-16 record.
“Getting a one-seed is nice and it shows that we’ve had a very strong year, but with either one or two, getting the bye is the big thing,” Beaman said. “Getting the good practice day in, seeing the competition play in the first-round is an advantage. And then having to win just one match before getting to the championships is definitely a benefit because of the conditions there.”
If Idaho does reach the championship match, its potential counterpart could be third-seeded New Mexico State, which was the only WAC team to knock the Vandals off during the regular season, winning 4-3 in Las Cruces, N.M., on Apr. 13. Beaman, however, believes the pressure is on the Aggies entering the tournament, not his top-seeded Vandals.
“I feel that although we’re the number-one seed, really the pressure is on New Mexico State,” he said. “They pulled off that huge upset win and they’re playing at home. There’s pressure on us as the one-seed, but if we do face New Mexico State in the finals, they’re the team that has to beat us twice.”
New Mexico State will face sixth-seeded Seattle U in the quarterfinals, with the winner advancing to face No. 2 UTPA in the semis.
On the men’s side, Idaho earned the No. 2 seed after finishing 9-13 in the regular season. The Vandals will face the winner of No. 3 Seattle U and No. 6 UTPA in the semifinals on Apr. 26.
“I’m happy with the seed, it’s definitely a seed that we deserve,” Beaman said. “We didn’t have the best record this year but we did play a very tough schedule, playing some nationally ranked and top programs. The good thing is we really started to turn it around at the end of the year and finished with some confidence. I really like the look of the draw that was put out.”
Idaho won its final two regular season matches and went 3-1 against WAC opponents, including two wins over potential semifinal opponent Seattle U. The only WAC team to beat the Vandals during the regular season was top-seeded New Mexico State, winning 4-0 in Las Cruces on Feb. 16.
Beaman said getting the early lead by winning the doubles point will be critical for the men in the tournament. Idaho went 16-3 at the top doubles spot during the regular season, but just 17-25 combined at Nos. 2 and 3.
“We really need to start strong in doubles,” he said. “That’s going to be a key for confidence, getting that doubles point. Then we need to go into the practice day with the right mindset. We need to be very focused, very driven and competitive in our practice to be ready to play in those conditions in the semis and hopefully in the finals.”
The team champion in both the men’s and women’s tournaments will earn the WAC’s automatic berth into the NCAA championships.