It's been one of those years Keith Cox would like the opportunity to rewrite and then replay.
Injuries still haunt the Weber State men's and women's tennis teams as they head into the final matches. Also, there was an eligibility problem. Corrected, the Wildcats would have taken into the Big Sky Championships two pretty formidable teams.As it stands now, Weber has a chance in the women's play but is not considered a contender in the men's championships.
What's a coach to do?
"Feel good about where we are and realize we are a young team. We only lose one senior, that's all. This will put us in good position for next year," said Cox, who is in his 24th year with the Wildcats tennis program.
"They took three teams each from the Mountain and Pacific divisions. Naturally, being in mountains we're in the Pacific Division. But I think we have a good shot at the women's title. We tied for first in the regions, and our region was by far the strongest. Under a tie-breaking formula we ended up as the No. 3 seed, even though we beat the No. 1 team. It came down to points.
"With the men, now, that's a little different. We're a real darkhorse there."
Injuries have been the biggest problem for the Wildcats. On the women's side, two starters are out. The No. 1 player tore her Achilles' tendon and the No. 5 player injured her knee.
Cox will take six players to fill six spots. "We're at our limit. We lose another player and we'll have to play short-handed," he adds.
On the men's side, the No. 2 player had academic problems and can't play, and the No. 4 player suffered a severe ankle sprain.
Then again, looking at Weber's record, especially on the men's side, an opposing coach might take Weber too lightly. To the observer, the men's 6-15 record wouldn't strike too much fear. Then again . . .
"I'm not one to look at records. I play as many nationally ranked teams as I can. I believe it's the best way of getting the players ready for the championships. I think we've played only two schools this season that were not ranked," said Cox.
The women's record is more impressive - 12-6. That, along with the fact that the Weber women beat the No. 1 seed in the region, might be enough to command respect.
The No. 1 player on the men's team is Trevor Ferguson, a sophomore who played high school tennis at Alta. On one week during the season, Ferguson was named Big Sky Player of the Week for his victories. His freshman year on the team he was voted the MVP.
He is a tall, left-handed player with a good serve and strong groundstokes.
No. 2 is Patrick Erikson, a sophomore from Scottsdale, Ariz. He carries the team's best win-loss record, having moved up from No. 3 to fill in the vacated spot. His biggest assets are his consistency and powerful groundstrokes.
Filling in the rest of the roster are Don Williams, a freshman from Ogden High; Jordan Butler, a sophomore from Woods Cross High; John Peterson, from Ogden High and the only senior on the two teams; and Ben Bair, a freshman transfer from the U.S. Military Academy.
Derek Delancey, a sophomore from Scottsdale, is recovering from a sprained ankle but will accompany the team to the finals.
The women have also played the tough schedule and have surfaced as a real title threat.
More encouraging to Cox is the fact that this, too, is a young team with room to develop.
No. 1 is Mete Damsgaard, a freshman from Aarhus, Denmark. She is a tall lefthander with powerful groundstrokes and strong volley.
No. 2 is Veronica Reynosa, a freshman from Chatsworth, Calif. She is, said Cox, one of the most athletic players he's coached in his career.
The rest of the surviving six include Kim Schlagel, a sophomore from Oroville, Calif.; Nicole Woywod, a sophomore from Las Vegas; Loni Kuhn a sophomore from Brighton High; and Aimee Evans, a sophomore from Brighton High.
Cox is also quick to point out that between the two lineups, eight of the players are from Salt Lake City and Ogden.
"When we're looking at players, now, the first place we look is locally. Then we look in the Intermountain area and then go international," he said.
"We've found we get a lot more support from the parents and families of the local players, and that's important."
The six-team Big Sky finals will begin Friday in Phoenix. Weber, going in as the No. 3 seed in the Pacific Division, will play the No. 2 seed in the Mountain Division. Under the single-elimination event the semifinals will be Saturday and the finals on Sunday.