The message on tennis coach Jon Messick’s answering machine says, “Home of the future Mountain West Conference champion Rams.”
The team will take an important first step in making that dream come true this year, when it travels to Las Vegas to take on conference rivals San Diego State and UNLV this weekend. According to Messick, these teams will be the toughest the Rams will face all year.
San Diego State comes into the match ranked No. 30 nationally with UNLV close at their heels at No. 33. Traditionally, the Rams have faired poorly against these two teams with an 0-7 record against San Diego State and a 1-6 record against UNLV during Messick’s tenure.
“All the way through the lineup, both teams are strong,” Messick said. “But I think we have the ability to beat them at any spot.”
The highlight will be on the Nos. 1 and 2 spots with senior Sanja Hansson and sophomore Dasha Zhurin representing CSU. Hansson appears to be the best player to grace the courts for CSU, with her being the only Ram to be nationally ranked when she was No. 101 in late February.
Zhurin, however, has been on fire of late. She has won her last seven singles matches and will be looking for big games against tough opponents in the City of Sin.
“It’s important for us to do well at the one and two positions,” Messick said. “When they do well it gives incentive for the rest of the team to step up their game.”
This will be no easy feat. Hansson faced the Aztecs’ Silvia Tornier last year and lost. Zhurin will be matching up against Lindsey Hedberg, who she has yet to see in competition.
“It’s really important for us to play well,” Messick said. “Even if the results don’t go our way, if we play well then it will set us up for the rest of the season knowing that these will be the best teams we face.”
With the recent blizzard, preparing for these matches has been difficult for CSU. The last competitive matches for the Rams came over spring break when they took on Cal-Fullerton and UC Riverside in California.
“The weather hurt us because we’ve had to have 6 a.m. practices rather than our usual afternoon ones,” Messick said.
“When we get there on Friday we’re going to have a practice. We’re there to play some tennis and get a bid (to the NCAA Tournament).”
If the players had hopes of partying all night in Vegas, Messick dismissed that, insisting the players will have a curfew to ensure they are well rested for the hefty task of toppling these tennis powerhouses.