A hurting University of Utah tennis team is a little sorer after its meeting with the University of California-Irvine on Monday.
The Utes lost the match to the nationally ranked Californians, 5-3.More painful, however, was the injury to their No. 1 player - Chris Entzel. Considering the Utes have two players wrapped in bandages already, the team can ill afford a third.
But, on the first serve of the first match on the No. 1 court against Irvine's impressive No. 1 young freshman, Brett Hanson-Dent, Entzel went down.
It was, he said later, an old injury that he reinjured. The ankle was wrapped and he played, but it was obvious as the match progressed that Entzel was not himself. He favored the ankle and hopped when he should have run or slid.
Still, he made a match of it. He broke service in the fourth, but lost his service in the fifth game of the first set. The two held to 6-all. In the playoff, two close calls that missed by inches were the difference, and in the end, Hanson-Dent won it 7-5. Entzel eventually lost the match, 7-6, 6-3.
Utah did win two of the six singles matches, and both were posted by locals.
At No. 4 singles, Chris Reilly, who played high school tennis for Brighton, beat Jeff Miyamoto, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. And, at No. 6 singles, Jeff Weicher, who played for Hillcrest, beat Charles Wheeler, 6-3, 6-2.
The Utes, because of injuries to two of their frontline players - Lindsay Rawstone and Jason Materspaw - Utah had to shuffle its lineup.
Irvine coach Gerg Patton was aware of this.
"I've seen the two players that are hurt. They're good. I think it would have been a lot tougher for us with them in the lineup," he said.
Both Utah and Irvine are young teams. In fact, the healthy Utes and Irvine have identical class levels - one senior, one junior, two sophomores and two freshmen.
Patton called the Utes a good match and an "important match because we are young and we need something like this to bond us together. I've got a young team, but I think that down the line this can be a great team." Irvine has been ranked as high as No. 17 this year.
Utah coach F.D. Robbins said almost the same thing.
"We're a young team, but we're a good team. I think given time, and with everyone healthy, this can be one of the better teams we've had," he said.
Utah lost the remaining three singles. Graeme Cox lost to Mike Roberts, 6-2, 6-1; Ed Peregrino lost to Karston Hoffman, 6-3, 7-5; and Kurt Kistler lost to Randall Ivey, 6-3, 6-2.
Irvine clinched the match at No. 3 doubles.
With the outcome certain, and after having split sets, and with an ankle that was getting sorer by the point, Robbins chose to forfeit at No. 1 doubles and rest Entzel and Weichers. At No. 2 doubles, Kistler and Peregrino won 6-4, 4-6, 7-6.
Utah now heads to Arizona to play Arizona and Arizona State. It's next home match will be March 1 against Northern Arizona.