As expected, the Utah and BYU tennis teams cruised through the first round of the Western Athletic Conference tennis tournament Monday, with easy victories at the University of New Mexico courts.
The Utes and Cougars, the only teams to win the WAC tennis title since the Arizona schools left the league in 1978, are the top two seeds in this year's tourney. No. 1 seed Utah hardly broke a sweat in downing Colorado State 9-0, while No. 2 BYU handily beat Hawaii 8-1.Things were expected to get much tougher Tuesday morning. The Utes were to face No. 4 San Diego State, which blanked UTEP Monday, while BYU was matched up with No. 3 Air Force, which knocked off host New Mexico. If the two long-time rivals happen to get by their Tuesday matches, they would meet for the championship Wednesday at noon.
"This was a good match for us to get the jitters out," said Ute Coach F.B. Robbins.
In beating Colorado State, Utah only had one match go to three sets - at No. 3 doubles, where Roger Jansson and Chris Gladwell beat Carl Narsi and Scott Brush 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Gladwell was a last-minute addition to the Ute squad, which had two of its top six players injured. Jorgen Lindeman stayed home after suffering a compound fracture of his toe a week ago playing volleyball, of all things. Martin Tenlen, the Utes' regular No. 2 man, had some cartilage removed from his knee two weeks ago.
With Lindeman and Tenlen out, Robbins thought he was down to five players, which meant the Utes would have to play a man short this week. Robbins even went to the trouble of holding open tryouts on the Ute campus last week and had a player selected until he was found to be ineligible. So Robbins turned to Gladwell, who had been on the Ute team last fall.
Gladwell filled in at No. 3 doubles, but Tenlen was able to play singles although he was dropped to No. 5 becasue he's still not 100 percent. Tenlen won his match 6-1, 6-0.
In BYU's easy victory over Hawaii the Cougars' only loss, surprisingly, came at No. 1 singles where Dave Harkness, last year's WAC individual champion, was beaten by Jim Murray, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3.
Harkenss has been bothered all spring by a bad back that requires him to wear a back brace and two t-shirts to keep warm. Cougar Coach Jim Osborne believes Harkness is about 80 percent physically, but he thinks his problem may be more mental right now.
"Mentally, he's not 100 percent," said Osborne. "He's still a little tentative about going for balls. He's got to do much better and play like he's capable. Mentally, he's got to put it together."
Hawaii's No. 1 and No. 2 doubles teams took BYU to three sets and Sean Morrison and George Chingas won at No. 2 in a tie-breaker.
Air Force's victory over New Mexico, 6-3, was due to superior depth. Behind Alan Dils and Jorge Ortega, the Lobos won at No. 1 and No. 2 singles and at No. 2 doubles. Those two still have the individual championships later in the week to show their talent.
The individual meet will be played Wednesday through Saturday.
SDSU was expected to have trouble with UTEP, which has upgraded its program this year and has brought in several foreign players. But the Aztecs breezed to a 9-0 win
WAC NOTES: Of the 50 players competing here, 16 are foreigners. UTEP has five, Utah and Hawaii have four each. The foreign players hail from seven different countries, including Sweden Australian, New Zealand, Spain, Yugoslavia, Norway and Nigeria . . . Utah has won nine of the last 12 WAC titles, BYU three. New Mexico is the only other current WAC school to have won a tennis title - in 1968.