Idaho loses to Eastern Washington to close Big Sky play, travels to Boise State, Utah State for regular season finale this weekend
It wasn’t a good loss by any means.
Idaho stood tied with Montana State for second in the Big Sky, but the Vandal men’s tennis team’s loss to Eastern Washington Wednesday dropped Idaho to third in the conference.
“Today we lost 4-3 to an Eastern Washington team that showed up, competed hard and plain beat us,” Idaho coach Jeff Beaman said. “We have the talent to win the conference, and I am confident we will, but we need to learn from today and have every player show up and compete in the right way for their singles and doubles.”
Doubles was the biggest trouble for Idaho (14-9, 8-3 Big Sky), as senior Cristobal Ramos Salazar and junior Jackson Varney dropped the No. 1 doubles match and freshman Mark Kovacs and senior Alberto Sanz dropped the No. 3 match. Only the pairing of junior Odon Barta and freshman Felipe Fonseca was victorious against Eastern Washington (7-14, 5-6) in doubles, as they have been many times this year before.
Singles went much better for Idaho, as it won three of the top four singles matches. Barta lost a close match in No. 1 singles, before Fonseca, Ramos Salazar and Kovacs all won their singles matches. Varney couldn’t hold on in the No. 5 singles match, nor could Sanz in the No. 6 singles match, and Idaho fell 4-3.
The Big Sky race is tight and the Vandals are still in it. With a conference tournament berth already clinched and no more conference games coming up, Idaho can sit back and watch how conference play pans out for the rest of the teams.
Weber State stands in first at 8-1 in conference play, but with their two remaining games against two of the weaker Big Sky squads in Northern Colorado and Idaho State, two losses are hard to imagine.
Montana State is in second place at 8-2 with a critical game against fourth-place Montana. A Montana State win would prevent Idaho from winning the Big Sky regular season title, while a Montana win would create a three-way tie for second with both Montana State and the Vandals. If Weber State was to drop both their next two games with a Montana win, then it would make a four-way tie for first-place.
For now though, Idaho will let all the scenarios play out and see where it stands when the dust settles. The Vandals head to Boise for two games against Mountain West and former WAC rivals Boise State and Utah State.
Boise State (10-15, 3-3 Mountain West) has struggled this season and sits tied with Fresno State and UNLV for fourth place in the Mountain West. Utah State (17-7, 5-1) will be one of the toughest opponents all season for Idaho. Utah State comes in ranked No. 66 in the nation.
While wins are important, these last two games won’t affect Big Sky seeding and Idaho can focus on getting extra experience and playing time in against quality competition just before heading to the Big Sky Tournament.
“Good teams and good players live to compete,” Beaman said. “And this weekend allows our players as individuals and our team as a unit to make themselves better.”
Ben Evensen can be reached at email@example.com