It was expected to be a BYU/Utah chase for the High Country Athletic Conference title - but not to the degree it is. This was supposed to be a conference race, with seven teams running, not a dual match.
But a dual match it is and the two teams are Utah and BYU. There will be playoffs in nine matches today - singles and doubles - for individual titles that will eventually add up to a conference crown, and in all nine cases it will be Utah vs. BYU players.Not one other team placed anyone in either singles or doubles. Utah and BYU players dominated. Totally. No upsets, no letdowns. The two Utah schools were expected to do well and they have. No matter the outcome, they did something that has probably never been done before - turn an individual conference final into a two-team dual match.
The finals start at 11 a.m. on the BYU indoor courts. There is no charge for admission.
The fact the two schools dominated does not mean there were not good matches, or close ones. Four of the 18 played went three sets and several more were tough two-setters.
BYU's No. 1 player, in fact, played a three-set match that may have been medicine for a sore season for Susanna Lee, the Y.'s two-time All-America player and a senior. According to Lee she has been struggling the last few months. Senior pressures, said her coach Ann Valentine.
She beat Melanie Breed of the University of New Mexico, in a close 6-3 first set, but then lost her concentration and started to rush her game in the second and lost 1-6. She recovered and went on to win the third 6-1.
At No. 3 singles, both winning players had a rough go. Michelle Taylor of the Y. eventually beat Patricia Riddell of the University of Texas-El Paso, 6-2, 4-6, 6-1. And Utah's Julie Kempin struggled before beating Rachel Wilson of New Mexico, 6-7 (7-4), 7-5, 6-0.
The fourth three-setter belonged to Utah's freshman, Ruth Ann Stevens, the high school standout who never lost in four years at Brighton High School. Friday, she eventually beat Judy Wagschal of Colorado State, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4. The secret was her constant attacking serve-and-volley game. She kept the pressure on and eventually won the match at the net.
Valentine said of the outcome that she was especially pleased, "because I didn't know what would happen. We're playing three freshman at (Nos.) 4, 5 and 6. They've come along so fast."
Utah's coach John Tsumas was equally pleased with his team's play. He said he hopes his team has, as it appears, peaked at the right time.
BYU is, of course, favored. The Cougars will be going for their sixth straight title. And back in early March the Cougars beat the Utes, 7-2. The Utes, however, are playing better tennis these days.