The upcoming Utah-BYU tennis matchup shouldn't be much different from the closely fought, highly tense, emotionally charged matches of yesteryear, but then again it could be. Some say differences could make it even more explosive.
One difference is the coaches. One is new (BYU's Jim Osborne), and one is almost new (Utah's F.D. Robbins is in his second year). For another, both teams are better. Regional rankings put BYU No. 1 and Utah No. 2. Some say they are close enough they could be switched and still be acceptable. And, too, even though the season is young, preseason matches have left some scores to be settled and losses to be avenged.The meeting will take place next Friday on the indoor courts on the Provo campus. First matches (5 and 6 singles) will begin at 3:30 p.m. The remaining singles (1 through 4) will follow, with doubles ending the match.
Osborne, the former Ute All-America, took over the BYU program in the fall. Considering his short recruiting time, he's put together a formidable team, led by Dave Harkness, a native Utahn who is currently ranked No. 15 nationally in college tennis and is the defending WAC champion.
Completing the BYU lineup will be George Chingas, a sophomore from Danville, Calif.; Johnny Mattice, a junior from Fair Oaks, Calif.; Sean Morrison, a senior from Brisbane, Australia; Andrew Sheppert, a freshman from San Marino, Calif., and Greg Skollar, a senior from Suffern, N.Y.
Robbins, who won the WAC team title his first year at the Utah helm, has put together a good team with a strong mix of junior and entering freshmen.
The Ute lineup will feature Johan Hoegstedt, a junior from Maristad, Sweden; Chris Entzel, a sophomore from Las Vegas, Nev.; Brendon Bowyer, a junior from Las Vegas; Martin Tenlen, a junior from Kangsbacka, Sweden; Roger Jansson, freshman from Stockholm, Sweden; Eric Chin, the team's only senior, from Oakland, Calif.
The likelihood of the match getting into doubles is very good. The teams are too close for a rout. Winning five of the six singles matches would indeed be an upset.
And, if it does go into doubles, it should be too close for anyone to predict.
For the Cougars, Harkness and Mattice are ranked No. 1 regionally, Morrison and Chingas No. 3 and Brian Hardin (freshman from Portland, Ore.) and Sheppert are No. 11. For the Utes, Bowyer and Entzel are No. 2, Hogstedt and Jorgen Lindeman (freshman from Olso, Norway) are No. 5 and Jansson and Tanlen are No. 9.
The feeling is that the winner of this match will gain a little lead in the chase for the WAC title, even though the two meet again in Salt Lake City on April 14.
Said one outside coach, "The two are so close at this point that any edge, even a psychological one, will mean a lot."
The matches are free and open to the public.