With both of Idaho’s tennis teams making it to the NCAA tournament due to winning the WAC Championship on Sunday, coach Jeff Beaman was almost forced to choose which team he would travel with.
After a few calls, he learned the men and women would both play at USC.
“I’m not sure exactly how it was done, but I’m just very thankful it did work out,” Beaman said. “John Wallace with the Idaho Athletic Administration put some calls and emails in. I also put a lot of calls and emails in just asking if any consideration could be given.”
The women will play No. 16 USC in the first round May 9. The men will play No. 1 USC the next day.
“It’s motivating,” senior Vicky Lozano said of facing USC. “We know they have very good players but we know that we have good players too. It’s a challenge that we can take.”
Lozano and the Vandals have only played one school ranked in the top 75 as USC is. Idaho defeated No. 66 ranked Fresno State, 4-3, with Lozano winning her No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles match.
USC presents an even bigger challenge being ranked in the top 20.
“I really like that matchup,” Beaman said. “It’s a very storied program that’s a very strong team. If you’re going to go out, might as well play one of the best from the start. I think any team in the top-16 is going to be a tough opponent but we have the benefit of having our men there supporting the women. It’s a good match.”
Of the total 64 teams, the top-16 are given a seed in the tournament. The rest of the schools are put into blocks. Idaho is in the 49-64 block.
“You have your seeds that are your top 16 seeds, and then you go into block seeds after that,” Beaman said. “They do like to keep teams, if at all possible, geographically close.”
Lozano said she feels fortunate for the opportunity to play against a highly ranked school in the national spotlight.
“It’s a very gratifying, satisfying feeling,” Lozano said. “You know when you accomplish your goals, it gives you confidence that you can achieve more things and that you’re actually a good player. I’ve worked very hard inside of the court and outside of the court — so it’s really nice to go there.”
This is the first time in history the women’s tennis program has gone to the NCAA tournament.
“As far as I know, we’re making history here,” Lozano said. “I like that people around the campus are acknowledging my work and congratulating me.”
The bracket is set up similarly to NCAA Division I basketball. Following the first two rounds of regional play, the remaining 16 teams travel to Athens, Georgia, to complete the tournament on May 15.
“The plan is to put the same team out there that won the conference tournament,” Beaman said. “They had Monday off to touch base with their all professors and starting Thursday, we’re back at it full steam with conditioning and getting ready to put in a good match next Friday.”
Conor Gleason can be reached at email@example.com