For first and only time this season, women’s tennis to play in Moscow
For many athletes, competing at home is a common occurrence. For the Idaho women’s tennis team this is not the case.
Friday and Sunday at the Memorial Gym tennis courts, the Vandals (10-7 overall, 7-1 Big Sky) will host Montana (6-9, 5-1) and Montana State (7-10, 2-4) in their first and only home matches this season.
“We have two home matches and a Senior Day, so it is really exciting.” sophomore Galina Bykova said. “There should be a lot of support here and it is always nice to play at home.”
The team will honor its three seniors — team captain Sophie Vickers, Emmie Marx and Beatriz Flores — over the weekend.
But the matches over the weekend mean more than just a sendoff for the senior class. The Vandals currently sit at second in the Big Sky and the Montana Grizzlies are right behind them in the standings. Montana State is also fighting for one of the six berths in the Big Sky Tournament.
“These two matches are crucial for us,” Vickers said. “Montana and Montana State are both fighting for top six positions to go to the conference tournament as are we. I mean, we’ve got our spot, but they are both going to be tough teams so playing them on Senior Day, it will be a bit of added excitement.”
Along with the Senior Day excitement, the Vandals are coming into the matches well rested. The team hasn’t competed since a 5-2 victory over Northern Arizona March 29 in Flagstaff, Arizona.
“Towards the end of the season everyone is obviously feeling a little tired and sore and everything,” Vickers said. “But it is important to stay on top of it and take care of ourselves and each other.”
Friday’s match against Montana could decide who ends up earning the second first round bye in the conference tournament with Sacramento State already claiming the top seed. They currently have an unbeaten 10-0 conference record.
The Vandals and Grizzlies, despite this being the Vandals’ first year in the Big Sky, are pretty familiar with one another. The Grizzlies edged the Vandals 4-3 last spring and the two teams have had competitive matches over the last few seasons.
“The match on Friday is a very big one for us,” Idaho coach Mariana Cobra said. “We have lost to Montana 4-3 the last four years, so obviously Montana always comes here ready to play us and I think that is a good challenge for us.”
The Grizzlies and Vandals were picked second and third respectively in the preseason coaches’ poll so the pressure is on them, not the Vandals, Cobra said.
Along with being rested, the Vandals have the home-court advantage. Throughout this season, they have had to adapt to a new court before playing, but this weekend their opponents will have that challenge.
“They are our courts so we kind of feel comfortable here, so it is a little advantage for us,” Bykova said. “We know where the little spots we can hit (are).”
On top of knowing the court, the team doesn’t have to worry about jet lag or a rough night’s sleep in a hotel.
“It is fun to be at home,” Cobra said. “The girls are excited for that. We have three seniors, so they are all looking forward to having a nice few home matches here before we go on the road again.”
For Vickers, she will play the last matches of her Vandal career at home, but she said she is more excited than sad to play her final home sets.
“It is exciting.” Vickers said. “We practice on these courts for four years, but hardly played a match here, so it is kind of exciting that this is how it’s going to end on these courts. Hopefully we can get a bit of a crowd out, get some people in here and add to the excitement of the day.”
Joshua Gamez can be reached at email@example.com