After returning to Moscow as WAC champions early last week, the Vandal men’s tennis team knew they were going to be playing in the NCAA tournament — they just didn’t know where. This was until the brackets were unveiled April 29 and the Vandals found out they were going to be playing at No. 1 overall seed USC.
But even after seeing the draw against the Trojans’ behemoth program, Idaho coach Jeff Beaman decided it was in the teams’ best interest to take a few days off before hitting it hard. This gave some of the sore shoulders and rolled ankles on the team extra time to heal, Beaman said.
“As of Thursday, we got back into structured practice. Some of the players worked on specific things, but the main thing was a lot of consistency and actual point play to keep the competitive edge,” Beaman said. “You’re not going to change much — we just stayed out there and hit a lot of balls and kept the competitive juices flowing.”
The downside of the time off was that the Vandals came out a little sluggish during last Thursday’s practice. After not being on the courts in a structured matter for a few days it was to be expected, Beaman said.
Many of the players spent the time off catching up on their academics. Some players are pursuing demanding degrees such as engineering and architecture.
But many players needed to stay on the court to avoid a dip in their confidence and tenacity, so they hit the courts even on their off days to maintain that level. Beaman said the players know what they need to do to get better and compete with USC.
Much like Idaho’s experience in Las Cruces, New Mexico, for the conference tournament, they left Moscow Wednesday night and arrived in Los Angeles early. This gave the team a bit of time to practice and get acclimated to the climate, before hitting the courts on Saturday.
“The really big thing is going to be the change in weather,” Beaman said “It’s a big elevation difference between LA and here, so getting two really good days of practice in is really key.”
The Vandals will have the luxury of practicing at the impressive USC tennis facilities Thursday and Friday, before playing at noon on Saturday.
Thursday night the team will be part of a banquet honoring teams participating in the tournament, and will watch the Idaho women’s team on Friday, since they also drew USC in the first round.
The Vandals will play and practice at USC’s Marks Stadium, which will likely be filled to capacity. Southern California is one of the biggest tennis hubs in the nation. With the Trojans being the No. 1 ranked team in the nation, it should be expected that the Vandals will be fighting an uphill battle in terms of fan support, and in its ability to get a win.
The Vandals have had a few experiences with crowds in the past, with games at Boise State and New Mexico State late in the year, but those pale in comparison to the crowd they’re likely to see in the “City of Angels.”
“We will be playing the No. 1 team at home. I’m sure it is going to be a great environment,” Beaman said.
Joshua Gamez can be reached at email@example.com