The term “road warriors” could be used to describe the Idaho men’s tennis team, which has amassed a 15-2 record despite not competing in a home match all season.
This Friday, No. 62 Idaho will finally enjoy home-court advantage when it battles New Mexico State in the Palouse for their second Western Athletic Conference match of the season. The match begins at Moscow at 3:30 p.m. if the weather is nice. If not, the match will be played at Washington State University’s indoor courts at 4.
New Mexico State enters the match with a 9-4 record. Three of those losses have come against ranked opponents, more recently No. 39 Texas Tech. The Aggies are 1-0 in conference play.
Idaho is 2-3 in its last five meetings with NMSU, including a 5-2 win last year in New Mexico. Beaman said the Aggies have become a rival for Idaho in recent years.
“We’ve had a lot of competitive matches with them in the past,” Beaman said.
Along with adding another conference win, Idaho will also try to shake off their 4-2 loss to No. 48 Boise State in the Boise State Springhill Suites Classic on March 24. Idaho swept the Broncos in the doubles matches but dropped four out of five singles matches.
Recent history should give Idaho reason for optimism. The Vandals’ only other loss occurred against Oregon, another top-50 team, earlier this month. After that, Idaho went on to win six straight matches, including a win against then No. 73 St. Mary’s.
If the Vandals do go on another streak, it will once again have to happen on the road. After Friday’s match, they will head south to play three matches in as many days. Idaho will take on Southern Methodist in Dallas on Sunday, then Texas-Arlington in Arlington on Monday. They will cross the border to play Oklahoma State in Stillwater on Tuesday.
The SMU Mustangs are 4-7 and feature Arturs Kazijevs, who is ranked No. 124 in singles and recently defeated No. 52 Winston Lin of Columbia University. He and Mischa Nowicki make up the 75th ranked doubles pairing in the country.
UTA is another WAC opponent. The Mavericks are 6-8 with a 0-1 conference record, and Idaho defeated them 6-1 last season. OSU (8-7) was ranked 72nd last week before losing to No. 38 San Diego. Sooners Richard Del Nunzio and Denys Pume are ranked 70th in doubles.
The key to doing well on this road trip, Beaman said, will be to stay healthy.
“We’re playing three competitive (road) matches, and four matches in five days is pretty hard on the body,” Beaman said.
Sophomore Dmitry Perevoshchikov’s health will be an important factor. Perevoshchikov, Idaho’s No.1 singles player, has dealt with injuries all season and played hurt during his matches in Boise. He lost his first singles match of the season against Southern Mississippi after winning 14 straight. He lost again against Boise State.
“I felt a little down,” Perevoshchikov said about his two losses. “But I know if I could play against those guys when I’m not injured or not having any problems I can — maybe not beat them, but have a better match against them.”
Beaman said Perevoshchikov is able to compete this weekend, but he might change the lineup in order to give Perevoshchikov some rest.
Fortunately, seniors Abid Akbar and Marius Cirstea — Idaho’s- No. 2 and No. 3 singles players — are more than capable of moving up in the lineup. They both have spent time at the No. 1 position during the season, with Akbar going 3-1 in the top spot and Cirstea going 1-0.
Anthony Kuipers can be reached at email@example.com