The last-minute logistics are set for the Idaho women’s tennis team, who are playing in its first NCAA tournament match in program history.
The Vandals got nearly two weeks of much-needed rest following a travel-heavy season, capped off by a victory at the WAC Championships against New Mexico State.
After a late flight into Los Angeles Wednesday evening, the team practiced at 2 p.m. on Thursday — the same time as its match on Friday.
“We’ll compete the next day, so we’re used to potentially the same temperatures and the same position of the sun,” Idaho coach Jeff Beaman said. “With serving and overheads, you start out just getting a rhythm, getting a feel for the conditions. Then we’ll start playing hard and full out points. Then go back, have a good dinner, a good night sleep and follow the same waking up routine the next day.”
The Vandals drew No. 16-seeded USC in the first round, a Pac-12 opponent the Vandals don’t know much about. Beaman said it’s hard to scout for tennis, but he is in constant contact with other coaches to help him prepare for USC.
“I’ve gotten in contact with a few coaches, gotten a few pointers and also got sent a few actual little scouting reports,” Beaman said. “We aren’t actually going to be working on anything specific at this point in players’ games. It comes more into play with doubles. We really can prepare for a style that if they’re going to play two players back off the return, if they’re very aggressive at the net. That’s the big thing with scouting reports.”
With USC being one of the most well-known tennis powers in the country, Beaman expects a large crowd. However, he said his team is no stranger to the pressure, after playing in front of a hostile crowd at Boise State earlier in the season.
“The big thing was the conference finals,” Beaman said. “That was a very big crowd in Las Cruces, (New Mexico). In hosting (both our) men and women, we expected a good crowd. It will give the players some preparation, and they dealt really well with the crowd in Las Cruces. We coached them on focusing on the right things and not letting the crowd play into their focus and results.”
Senior Vicky Lozano said she expects the crowd to be tough on Idaho, but the crowd also could be motivating and exciting for her.
“I’m getting ready for it mentally,” Lozano said. “The crowd will probably be a little loud and that can be hard to take. I think I have a lot of support from the coaches –from Jeff (Beaman), from Art (Hoomiratana) and Abid (Akbar). I think I’m getting ready well for it.”
If Idaho wins against USC, it will move on to face the winner of Fresno State and Michigan. The Vandals beat Fresno State earlier this season, 4-3. If the Vandals prevail, the tournament shifts to Athens, Georgia, on May 15 for the round of 32.
“Hopefully, we can have the two rounds there and get to play the next week,” Lozano said. “But if not, just prepare for finals and enjoy the rest of the semester and prepare for graduation. Let’s hope for the best.”
Conor Gleason can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org