Apr 272005
Authors: Nate Ramos

In the words of Chef Emeril Lagasse, "Bam, let's kick it up a notch."

Perhaps tennis and cooking do not go together very often, but the Rams will be looking to serve up a win in their first game of the Mountain West Conference Tournament starting today in San Diego against No. 45 UNLV.

In the teams' last meeting, UNLV defeated the Rams 6-1. Leading The Rebels is MWC Most Valuable Player candidate No. 28 Elena Gantcheva. The only point the Rams earned in the last match was by Anne Anderson. UNLV and CSU are not strangers, however. Aside from being conference foes, they also have some history.

The last time the Rams won in the first round of the MWC Tournament was in 2001 when they defeated UNLV 4-2. At the time UNLV was the defending champion and ranked third in the conference, and CSU was the sixth seed in the conference. History could repeat itself, as this year UNLV is third seed and CSU is the sixth seed.

In a conference tournament the level of play changes. Players kick their play up a notch in order to get the win. At least that is the plan for the Rams. The coaches plan to sit down with players and discuss potential opponents. After detailed work studying opposing players the Rams typically have more success, said CSU head coach Jon Messick.

Among the ingredients needed for success are aggressiveness and determination, said CSU senior Emily Kirchem and junior Jessica Jones. Kirchem and Jones have been working on playing aggressively, charging the net and pounding the ball all season. This, along with playing every point as if it were their last, has been the goal.

"Our problem is finishing games," said junior Carla Pallares. "We need to concentrate on finishing off the point."

This has been a recurring theme when the Rams face nationally ranked teams. Kirchem, who came back several times in a match in order to defeat a nationally ranked player, has been one an example of what can happen with perseverance.

"Even though some of the scores against nationally ranked teams on paper were not close, we played competitively," Messick said. "It is going to be tough, but overall the team plays well against tough opponents. All of the coaches think we can beat a team like UNLV."

Kirchem agreed.

"Every match, there are areas of our game we try to improve on," Kirchem said. "With confidence we can beat any team."

The first game of the tournament play begins today at 11 a.m. in San Diego.

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