Idaho now sets sights on second straight conference title
Going into the weekend, the Idaho women’s tennis team was one win away from clinching the No. 2 seed and second first-round bye in the Big Sky Conference Tournament in Sacramento, California, this weekend.
Thanks to a convincing 6-1 victory on Saturday over Portland State, the Vandals did just that. With a first-round bye, the Vandals will enjoy an extra day on the campus of the regular season champion Sacramento State Hornets.
The Vandals (13-8 overall, 10-1 Big Sky) then finished out the regular season on the wrong end of a 5-2 decision Sunday in Eugene, Oregon, at the hand of the No. 57 Oregon Ducks in a nonconference season finale.
Despite the loss, the Vandals were right with the Ducks, Idaho coach Mariana Cobra said.
Even in the loss, sophomore standout Galina Bykova continued her strong season with two more victories at No. 1 singles, including a straight set victory over the No. 71 singles player in the country — Nina Rose.
The match with the Ducks was the Vandals’ second match with a Pac-12 opponent. Despite the Vandals falling in both matches against Pac-12 competition this season, the experience the Vandals gained playing top competition should prove to be invaluable, Idaho coach Mariana Cobra said.
Even with the bye, the team will fly out of Moscow Wednesday and have three days to practice on the Hornets’ home court in preparation of their first match in the conference semifinals. The Vandals will face the winner of the No. 3 vs No. 6 quarterfinal matchup between Montana and Portland State.
Having those extra days along with an opponent they played late in the season will be a big advantage in both the preparation and being rested and ready, Cobra said.
Even with the familiarity the Vandals have with their opponents, this doesn’t mean the team will take it easy in their preparation.
“Everyone in the Big Sky plays everyone, so I wouldn’t say it’s an advantage,” Cobra said. “But I think that we have the benefit of being able to look at scouting reports and see what made us successful in each match, so I think we are confident with whatever opponent we end up with.”
The team is confident in itself and whoever it ends up playing, so if they do the things they should, they have a great chance to advance to the final match, Cobra said.
Both matches over the weekend were on the PSU’s and Oregon’s Senior Days, which added to the pressure and crowd distractions the Vandals had to deal with.
“It was a great match for us to get used to what to expect when we go to Sacramento,” Cobra said. “The crowd is going to be crazy, the calls are not going to go our way, but there is nothing we can do but focus on the match.”