When the University of Utah takes to the tennis courts Monday, local tennis patrons will likely be struck by something vaguely familiar.
And they should. Despite the fact the Utes are fielding a very young team this season, five players have been around the Salt Lake area for a long time.Three of them learned their tennis on local courts and two others have been frequent visitors over the years.
Jeff Weichers, back from an LDS mission, played for Hillcrest High, Chris Reilly for Brighton High and Brandon Owen for Highland High. Chris Entzel, a senior, and Jason Materspaw, a freshman, both from Las Vegas, played in Intermountain Division tournaments in Salt Lake City long before becoming Utes.
The five are expected to play parts in what could be called a "developing" year for the Utes.
On the nine-member playing roster for Utah, said Coach F.D. Robbins, there is one senior, two juniors (both transfer students), four sophomores and two freshman.
Don't, however, be misled. The Utes may be rebuilding after losing four players from last year's first-place WAC team, but they are not without talent. In four matches they are 4-0, with wins over BYU, Utah State, Weber State and San Diego State.
The true test will come Monday in the Utah's award-winning George S. Eccles Tennis Center when the Utes take on nationally ranked University of California-Irvine at 6:30 p.m.
The team is, as Robbins explained, young, "but we're solid. We've got a lot of depth. After No.1, the next five players are all so close it's hard to position them."
Playing No. 1 for the Utes is Entzel, currently ranked No. 39 in collegiate tennis. Earlier in the season, Entzel beat Steve Herdoiza of Northwestern, then ranked No. 13, and was serving for the match again Johnathan Stark, then ranked No. 1 in the country, before falling 7-5 in the third.
The two juniors are Ed Peregrino, from Anaheim, Calif., and Lindsay Rawstone, a French player who transferred to Utah from Weber State. Peregrino comes to Utah from Saddleback Junior College, where he was ranked No. 1 in both singles and doubles in the JC tennis program. Rawstone, who won the Big Sky tennis title, recently underwent a knee operation and won't play until March.
Along with Reilly and Weichers, the other two sophomores are Graeme Cox from Australia, and Kurt Kistler from Fresno, Calif., who transferred to Utah from Foothill JC. Reilly came to the Utes after winning the No. 2 singles title in high school tennis back in 1989. Weichers won the No. 1 high school title back in 1987.
The freshman are Materspaw and Owen. Materspaw has won Intermountain titles at every age level and is considered one of the better players to ever come out of the region. Owen won the high school doubles title for Highland.
Robbins said his doubles teams this year will be Entzel and Muterspaw, Kistler and Peregrino, and Reilly and Cox.
"I think we've come a long ways since the beginning of the (school) year. And, I think we'll play better towards the end of the season. We're a young team and we need the experience.
"The match with Irvine will tell us a lot. It'll give us a chance to measure up against one of the best schools in the country to see just how far we have to go to get up there," said Robbins.
Thus far the Utes best win was against San Diego. Pre-season the Aztecs were picked to finish at the top of the WAC program. The Utes played in the Eccles Center and beat them 5-3 at the start of the season.
Eccles Center recognized
The University of Utah will play it's toughest match of the season Monday, and in an award-winning tennis facility.
Prior to the Utes going against the University of California-Irvine, the Utes' new tennis facility, the George S. Eccles Tennis Center, will be officially recognized by the United States Tennis Association as one of the finest tennis facilities in the country.
Myron Walker, a sectional delegate, will present to Utah the USTA Facility Award.
Following the presentation, the Utes will take Cal-Irvine on in a dual match Utah Coach F. D. Robbins said would be his team's "toughest of the season."
The presentation will begin at 6 p.m., the match at 6:30 p.m. There is no charge to spectators.