LAS CRUCES – The New Mexico State women’s tennis team begins play at the 2009 WAC Championships in Honolulu against host Hawai’i, Thursday, April 23. The quarterfinal match at the UH Tennis Complex is scheduled to begin at 7:00 p.m. MT.
The Aggies went 10-12 in the regular season and posted a 4-4 record in WAC play. NM State fell 7-0 to the Rainbow Wahine on its home courts in the regular season finale Sunday. The Aggies are looking to return the favor in Honolulu and advance to the semifinals for what would be the third time in the last four seasons.
In the 2008 WAC Championships in Las Cruces, New Mexico State defeated UH 4-1 to move onto the semifinal round. NM State is 2-1 all-time in its first match of the WAC Championships, with the other win coming in 2006 over San Jose State.
Head coach Don Ball said that this has been a tough season, but that the team is really excited about the opportunity to play Hawai’i again.
“I believe we have a really good shot to beat Hawai’i,” Ball said. “It’s a great opportunity for us and we know it will be a tough match playing at their place. Things haven’t gone great for us this year, but life is life and we’re going in there excited and certainly think we can win the tournament if we catch a break. We are certainly due for that.
“We were not happy with our result from our last match with them. Playing seven hours of tennis the day before was tough and there was no question we were flat. At that same time, despite what the score says, it was still a really competitive match.”
New Mexico State’s 2009 season has been one plagued by injuries and the Aggies will have to battle against the heat and humidity in Honolulu. Senior Paulina Zuniga is the only player on the NM State roster with experience playing in Hawai’i.
That came in her freshman season in 2006, when the Aggies defeated the Rainbow Wahine, 5-2, on their home courts. Zuniga won her No. 5 singles match in three sets back in that March 21 victory.
Junior Sophia Marks has led New Mexico State this year playing exclusively at the top singles position. As a sophomore she was named second team all-WAC in both singles and doubles and she’s backed that up this year with a team-best 12 victories.
Both Zuniga and Marks reeled off five-straight singles victories early in the spring. Their winning streaks were the longest on the team in 2009.
Senior Stephanie Eusebe is the other Aggie that has won over 10 singles matches this spring, as she has played almost exclusively at the No. 3 position.
In doubles action, New Mexico State lost all 10 matches when they did not capture the double point. On the flip side, the Aggies had a 10-2 record in matches when they did win the team doubles point.
“Really the key for us is to win the doubles point,” Ball added. “If we can do that it puts us in a great position.”
Junior Laura Boguet and freshman Natalia Salum Soto posted the best doubles record on the team at 10-6. All but two of their wins came at the No. 3 spot. Juniors Aleksa Costa and Sophia Marks have spent the most time playing at the top position, but Eusebe and sophomore Isabela Kulaif have seen time at the top spot as well as No. 2.
Should New Mexico State win its match Thursday, they will move onto the semifinals and will likely face top seed and 15th-ranked Fresno State at 7:00 p.m., Friday.