Stevens: Lobo Women's Tennis 2012 Spring Preview

Feb. 2, 2012

New Mexico Lobo Women's Tennis - 2012 Spring Preview

Lobos at Montana State Invitational - Bozeman, Montana
Friday:
2 p.m. (MT), New Mexico vs. Utah State
Saturday: 3 p.m. (MT), New Mexico vs. Montana
Sunday: 9 a.m., Lobos at Montana State
GoLobos.com: Match Recap, Results

By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

The catching up for Roy Canada's Lobos in the spring of 2012 won't be defined by their fine work in the fall or even in the 13 matches leading up to conference play.

For Canada's Lobos, it's time to do some catching up in the Mountain West, too.

"We want more. We want to make an impact in the conference," said Canada. "Conference is important.

"Fall went well and there were even a couple of matches that we dominated. That gave us an idea where people are at with their game and how they fit in with each other. But the bottom line starts now."

Of course, the 13 non-conference games are important. They are used to improve skills, figure out a lineup, and hopefully build confidence. But Canada wants his young Lobos to use those 13 matches to help build a team that can make a little noise in the Mountain West.

His Lobos have been silent too long. The nightmare season of 2009-10 saw the Lobos go 1-21 and winless in conference. Last season, UNM went 8-15 overall, but notched only a single win in league play and that Colorado State team got even by knocking the Lobos out of the Mountain West Tournament.

It would be unfair and unrealistic to expect this senior-less team to scratch out a MW title in 2012. UNLV and TCU are loaded and Wyoming and San Diego State are good. But Canada would like to see his Lobos claw their way out of the cellar and be more competitive on the scoreboard.

Last season in league play, UNM won more than two games only twice in matches and those 4-3, 3-4 scores were posted against CSU. For sure, it would be nice if UNM could claw closer to UNLV, SDSU, Wyoming and San Diego State. But it also would be a step up to move past CSU and Boise State.

"We would have to have everybody at the top of their game all season to win the conference," said Canada. "And UNLV and TCU are very good. But we can finish in the top four. That would be a good step up for us. The conference is very balanced and there are no gimme matches."

The Lobos lost two seniors from a season back and bring in four freshmen: Susanna Kuuttila, Sarah Mahboob Khan (redshirt in 2012), Maria Sablina and Katie Wookey.

"We have a lot of new players and there are a lot of adjustments that new players have to make," said Canada. "But we have more talent and more depth.

"This is our time where the team needs to build chemistry, gel as a team and get four or five girls playing at the top of their game at the same time."

The Lobos open their season this weekend at the three-day Montana State Invite in Bozeman. UNM plays Utah State, Montana and Montana State. Canada says his pre-league slate is designed to push his young team, but not overwhelm them.

"We didn't schedule top notch teams," said the Lobo coach. "But we didn't want to go out there and just beat on people. We are looking at a lot of matches we can win, but we'll have to play well to win them.

"We didn't schedule any gimmes. We didn't want to build false confidence. The girls have to go out and perform and execute in order to win."

The pecking order on Canada's team has yet to be determined with one exception: Michaela Bezdickova.

"Micha (Mi-sha) stands out as our top player," Canada said. "Those are results within the team and results outside the team. There are clumps of separation after that, but it's pretty close and there should be competition for positions all year. The clumps change and shift."

The clump beneath Bezdickova, at this point, is a four-Lobo pack of Kuuttila, Sablina, Kristin Eggleston and Nikolina Grbac. The clump beneath that pack is Laura Richardson, Wookey, Michaela Oldani and Alyssa Caffey.

A team fields six individuals for singles' action plus three doubles teams. That means at least six Lobos will be on the court, since a player can compete in both singles and doubles. There could be more Lobos on the traveling squad if a Lobo plays in doubles but not singles - or vice versa.

"There is pressure to see who travels and who stays at home," said Canada. "Half this team is new and that brings new excitement besides just new talent.

"We still don't have the experience and there probably will be some ups and downs, but I expect us to do significantly better than what we have done in the last two years."

Canada says a key in Bozeman - and in all non-conference matches - is to figure out chemistry for doubles. A team competes with three doubles teams and the best-of-three winner of those matches adds a point to the six points available in the six singles matches.

"The doubles competition so often sets the tone for the match," said Canada. "And if you split in singles, you win the match if you win doubles. Our doubles teams have more talent, but they don't have a long history together. We are still looking at combinations."

The Lobos' first home match is Feb. 18 vs. Colorado followed by a Feb. 19 home match vs. Denver. These are two teams that should push the Lobos. UNM's first Mountain match is March 24 vs. Boise State. The MW tourney is set for March 26-29 in San Diego.

"We'll come out with the attitude that we have nothing to lose," said Canada.

Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former Sports Columnist and Associate Sports Editor at The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at rstevens50@comcast.net.

Laura Richardson




NEW MEXICO LOBOS 2012 ROSTER

PlayerHeightYear/Exp.
Michaela Bezdickova 6-0Soph. - 1L
Alyssa Caffey 5-5Soph. - 1L
Kristin Eggleston 5-5Junior - 2L
Nikolina Grbac 5-6 Soph. - HS
Susanna Kuuttila 5-7Fr. - HS
Sarah Mahboob Khan 5-9 Fr. - HS
Michaela Oldani 5-10 Jr. - 2L
Laura Richardson 5-7 Jr. - 2L
Maria Sablina 5-6Fr. - HS
Katie Wookey 5-9 Fr- HS

Coaches: Roy Canada (head); Michelle Heidbrink