Three teams have a grip on the first women's WAC tennis trophy. And it may be that the weather will determine who lets go and who hangs on.
The started Thursday: 1. outdoors at the Canyon Racquet Club if the weather is good, or 2. indoors at the Eccles Tennis Center if the weather is bad.Good weather will give the edge to San Diego State, while bad weather will shift the edge to Utah and BYU.
The Aztecs have played most of the season under the sun, while the Utes and Cougars have been confined mostly to artificial lighting indoors.
The three could be considered co-favorites at this stage. BYU, currently ranked No. 12 nationally, has the better record having beaten San Diego (6-3) and Utah (5-4).
But, San Diego, ranked No. 16, has three players currently in the top 100 and a coach's note that the team is "playing better," and Utah, currently ranked No. 21, has two of the best doubles combination in the country and a coach's report that his team, too, is playing its best tennis.
Because this is a WAC tournament instead of the High Country Athletic Conference of past years, only five teams are participating . . . New Mexico and Colorado State, included.
Seedings will match the Lobos and Rams on Thursday, with the winner to play BYU on Friday at 9 a.m. Utah and San Diego will follow at 11 a.m. The finals will be Saturday at 11 a.m.
According to the three coaches of the favored schools, their respective teams are all healthy and playing good tennis. Outsiders feel that if a three-way tie were possible, it would happen here.
Ann Valentine, coach of the BYU team, said she feels this is going to be the closest championship ever . . . This after remembering that last year her team won its 7th consecutive women's title by a scant one point over Utah.
Utah will go into the tournament with momentum. It has won nine of its last 12 matches and the three losses were by close 5-4 scores.
Ute coach John Tsumas pointed out his team's 5-4 win over No. 13 Tennessee and to the near upsets, 4-5, of Oklahoma State, a top-10 team, and BYU. The Utes are 11-11 for the season, but 10 of the losses were to teams ranked nationally in the top 25.
Accessing his team, Tsumas said the Utes are solid in singles, but lethal in doubles. Their No. 1 doubles team, Ruth Ann Stevens and Alison Bradford, is 22-5 this year and currently ranked No. 13 nationally. Their No. 2 team of Susie Costa and Sharla Barone hold a season record of 12-3.
On the singles side, Bradford is ranked No. 89 and Julie Kempin No. 91 nationally.
To win, said Tsumas, the Utes will need good singles play in order to exercise the power in their doubles.
Valentine, too, said her team is playing its best tennis thus far this season. More pleasing to her, however, is that everyone is in uniform and healthy.
"We've had some injuries this year that have bothered us. We're healthy now. Also, we just finished finals, which should take away a lot of pressure," she added.
Leading the Cougars will be Lesley Barbour, Maddy Deikmann, Monika Kobilikova and Evica Koljanin.
The Aztecs come into the tournament with the No. 14 ranked doubles team of Dorey Brandt and Nichole Storto. In singles, Storto is ranked No. 55, Eva Olivarez No. 59 and Brandt No. 99.
The current weather forecast calls for rain and snow by Friday. If it holds true, look for the event to be moved indoors . . . and for a Utah-BYU final - the sixth time in seven years.