A few weeks back, I wrote a column stating how many WAC Championships the University of Idaho had brought in up to that point. Up until a couple weeks ago, three Vandals teams — women’s basketball, men’s indoor track and field and women’s cross country — all brought WAC titles home to put in the Vandals’ trophy cases.
Then last weekend, two other Idaho teams were able to add in on the race for the WAC Commissioner’s Cup.
Both the men’s and women’s tennis teams walked into Las Cruces, New Mexico, last week and beat the hometown favorite Aggies to sweep the WAC Championships. Both teams, especially the women’s team, worked hard all season to get to where they ended at the close of the season.
The women’s team really succeeded this season going 19-5 and almost got a complete sweep in the WAC Tournament. They were at one point ranked No. 51 in the ITA tennis rankings and they ended up getting the No.1 seed into the WAC Tournament.
The men’s side had a different route to the title, ending the season 11-13. But with a 2-1 WAC record, they were seeded No. 2 in the conference tournament.
They had some hard fought battles on the way to a WAC Championship. In the championship match, it came down to the wire with the team escaping Las Cruces with a 4-3 victory.
Both teams competed hard and brought tons of success to Idaho, but they have had a big disadvantage — not just in this season, but for several years.
They don’t have the facilities nor the coaching staff that other mid-major tennis programs and even other teams on campus have.
The facilities that both teams have are limited to the courts outside of the Physical Education Building, the courts outside by the Administration building and — when the turf is up — a set of courts in the Kibbie Dome.
For a couple of teams that just won the WAC title in tennis, these facilities are not what one expects them to have.
They have to schedule practices around other teams and sometimes can’t even have their own home matches on a home court. When the Vandals are the home team, they are often either playing in Lewiston on LCSC’s courts or playing in Pullman on WSU’s courts. Both teams were only able to hold one match a piece in Moscow all season.
Outside of that problem, the women’s team is still without a head coach. Director of Tennis Jeff Beaman has taken over as coach of both teams.
That in and of itself provides its own problem. When the teams are playing in separate places on the same day, Beaman can’t be at both. He has to choose a team and the team that Beaman doesn’t select ends up having a graduate assistant or assistant coach assume the role of head coach.
With these challenges, it is surprising that both teams were able to overcome and adapt to the odds.For the future though, it’s time to start thinking about getting some facilities built for these teams.
That of course is easier said than done, because money is a big factor. Other teams that are under the Idaho banner need a new facility as well — hint, hint: basketball — and who knows if the athletic department has the money to hire a full time women’s coach.
Both teams move into the Big Sky Conference next season, and while they were a combined 6-1 against schools in that conference this season, it is logical to think that the team could struggle.
There were times this season where the travel wore on both teams and they would go on a losing streak because of it.
Just imagine if the teams could come home after a big stretch away and not have to travel the next weekend. The Vandals could be even more dominant then they were this season.
In any case though, hopefully both teams can continue the success this season as they head down to Southern California for the first round of the NCAA tournament against the USC Trojans.
Rick Clark can be reached at email@example.com