Stevens: Lobo Women Netters Open Mountain Play At Boise State

March 7, 2013

New Mexico Lobos Women's Tennis - On The Mountain West Road - At Boise State

Saturday: 2 p.m., Lobos at Boise State
Sunday: 9 a.m., Lobos vs. Eastern Washington (at Boise State) Match recap and results

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/

It's possible that the "Big Three" that Lobo Coach Erica Perkins Jasper and her Lobo women have to deal with across the tennis nets are the same ones that UNM basketball Coach Yvonne Sanchez had to look up to in hoops.

The San Diego State Aztecs, the Wyoming Cowgirls and the Fresno State Bulldogs and are ranked No. 53, No. 60 and No. 67, respectively. The good news for Jasper's Lobos is that they don't have to open Mountain West play with any of these three net bullies.

Ready or not, the Mountain West race is here for the Lobos as they open MW play at 2 p.m., Saturday at Boise State.

The Broncos are in the same situation as the Lobos, UNLV, Air Force, Nevada and Colorado State. Both teams are hoping to improve on their play during the non-conference and see if they can make a charge at the Aztecs, Cowgirls and Bulldogs.

The good thing about the rankings is that they are pretty much subjective going into league play. UNLV had a top 60 ranking in January, but three consecutive losses (5-1, 5-2, 5-2) dropped them out of the ITA's Top 100. The Lady Rebels are still pertty good.

The Lobos are young and improving. Have they improved enough to be a factor in the 2013 MW race? A modest goal for UNM in 2013 would be to win two matches in league play. UNM was 1-6 in the Mountain in 2012.

"The conference is pretty balanced," said Jasper. "I expect we're going to have pretty competitive matches from the get-go. Boise State should be comparable to what we'll face within the conference.

"I think the match will give us a good feel for what the rest of the conference will hold for us."

The Broncos aren't ranked, but this is a salty bunch with a lot of talent. The Broncos have nine players with winning records including Morgan Basil (13-6), Megan LaLone (13-6), Marlena Pietzuch (13-7), Sandy Vo (10-5), Teal Vosburgh (12-8) and Sammie Watson (12-8).

This talent allows Boise to field competitive doubles' teams. Boise State has won 61 percent of its singles' matches and wins at a 66 percent clip in doubles. UNM is at 42 percent in both singles and doubles.

A marque match in Boise could be UNM's Michaela Bezdickova vs. Vo. These are two of the top players in the Mountain. Bezdickova is 8-1 playing in the No. 1 spot and 13-6 overall. She is the only Lobo with an overall winning record in 2012-13, but Susanna Kuuttila has a sparkling 6-1 mark at the No. 6 spot in singles.

"She is playing very well at No. 1," Jasper said of Bezdickova. "That's a nice luxury for a coach to have a No. 1 player take care of business day-in and day-out. She is a strong leader for us."

The Lobos have a little momentum heading to Boise coming off back-to-back 4-3 wins. The Lobos have won the doubles' point in both of those matches, but will find a touch challenge from the Broncos. The Boise State team of Manuela Pietzuch and Marlena Pietezuch is ranked No. 39.

The UNM duo of Bezdickova and Laura Richardson is 4-5 at No. 1 doubles and playing well. The Broncos top doubles team is Basil and Vo: 7-1 in dual and 9-2 overall.

"Doubles always is a work in progress," said Jasper. "Until we get a little more solid in certain positions, we will continue to make tweaks.

"There are some unspoken things that go with a doubles partner that you have played a lot of matches with and trust. But I feel good players can play good doubles with different partners."

UNM is 4-5 overall and Boise State is 5-3. The Broncos are coming off a 5-2 loss to No. 61 Washington State.

"The girls have done a really good job in improving week-to-week and match-to-match," said Jasper. "We picked up a couple of close wins this past week and that was exciting to see. We are making steady progress.

"This is a fantastic group and they have bought in to the way we are doing things. They are seeing results and believing in their own ability and realizing that hard work off the court pays off on the court. It's an easy job being around them."