For the 11th straight year, either Utah or BYU will be crowned the Western Athletic Conference tennis champion.
That assurance was made Tuesday when the Utes and Cougars won their semifinal matches at the New Mexico tennis courts. Utah captured a harder-than-it-looked 5-1 victory over San Diego State, while BYU had all it could handle in a 5-4 win over Air Force.The finals match between Utah and BYU was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon. The individual portion of the meet was set to start later Wednesday for some of the unseeded players.
BYU, the defending WAC champion, found itself tied with the Falcons 3-3 after the singles were completed. The Cougars won at Nos. 2, 4 and 6 as Sean Morrison, Johnny Mattice and Greg Skollar were all victorious. Defending WAC individual champion David Harkness was beaten for the second straight day, losing to Don Kaliski, 7-6 (11-9), 6-4.
But Harkness came back to team with Mattice to win at No. 1 doubles in two sets. Then they went to cheer on the other two Cougar teams, which were involved in three-set matches. Morrison and George Chingas got an early break in the third set and held on to win 1-6, 6-2 ,6-4, giving the Cougars the victory.
"We were kind of down after we lost the first set, but we started concentrating more and settled down," said Chingas. "It was a great feeling when we won it for the team."
In the Cougars' final match, Skollar and Brian Hardin blew a triple match point in the 12th game of the third set and then lost in the tiebreaker at No. 3 doubles.
"We knew we were in for a fight today _ Air Force is one of the scrappiest teams around," said Cougar Coach Jim Osborne. "I'm proud of the guys. They gave a great effort."
Utah had been expected to have a similarly tough time with San Diego State and have the matter decided in doubles. But the doubles weren't even necessary when the Utes won five of six singles matches. However, it wasn't that easy.
The Utes got in an early hole by losing the first sets at Nos. 2, 3, 5 and 6. "It looked pretty bleak at that point," said Ute Coach F.D. Robbins.
But the Utes rallied to win three of those matches as Johan Hogstedt beat Woody Yocum at No. 3, 0-6, 6-3, 6-3, Martin Tenlen defeated Jeff Belloli at No. 5, 3-6, 6-1, 7-6 (7-3) and Roger Jansson beat Bill Kearsley 3-6, 6-2, 7-5.
"I probably played my best tennis in the tiebreaker," said Tenlen, who has come back from knee surgery just three weeks ago. "I'm especially pleased with the team win. This team really fought hard to win."
Even the Utes' lone loser, Brendan Bowyer, made a great recovery, coming back from 4-0 in the third set, only to lose in a tiebreaker.
"Our guys really gutted it out," said Robbins. "We're looking for guts and our guys really did a good job today."
The other Ute winners were Chris Entzel at No. 1 and Eric Chin at No. 4.
Despite the fact that Utes and Cougars have dominated the WAC tennis for the past decade, Wednesday' match was to mark only the second time they have met in the finals. The other occasion was the 1986 finals when Utah beat BYU at Hawaii. Before 1983 the tournament operated under a different format.