Lady Luck was not on the CSU tennis team’s side when it opened up Mountain West Conference play in Las Vegas over the weekend. The team lost to both No. 24 UNLV and No. 32 San Diego State by scores of 5-2 to move to 4-5 on the season.
Although the results aren’t as good as he had hoped for, head coach Jon Messick saw many positives from the outcome of the matches.
“These are the two best teams that we will play all year,” Messick said. “As young as our team is, we stepped up and beat UNLV at the No. 1 position.”
The CSU player that beat the Rebels’ top player, Gyorgyi Zsiros, is Sanja Hansson, arguably the best player in CSU’s history and currently fourth on the all-time singles wins list with 68. She will move up to No. 3 with her next victory.
Hansson defeated her foe in a tie breaker after they split the first two sets. After winning the first set by a convincing 6-3 margin, Hansson went up 2-0 in the second set.
“I was up 2-0 but then she came back and took that set,” Hansson said. “She was playing better and I lost my concentration but I managed to pull through for the victory. I’m playing with a lot of confidence right now.”
Hansson’s victory coupled with a win at the No. 5 position by freshman Carla Pallares marked the only singles wins for CSU against the home team. Hansson also paired up with sophomore Dasha Zhurin to take the win from the Rebels’ No. 1 doubles team.
Before the conference matches, Zhurin was on a seven-game win streak in singles competition, but that came to an end at the hands of San Diego State’s Lindsey Hedberg when she lost in straight sets 6-2, 6-3.
“I’ve never had such a long winning streak before, especially in the college game,” Zhurin said. “The competition was a little bit tougher than our other matches and it was hard to play outside after playing inside for so long.”
Zhurin is now going to work on keeping up her physical condition and trying to regain her focus so that she can string together another winning streak. She noted that it’s never a good feeling to lose but that she is going to learn from the loss and see what needs to be worked on in her game to become a better player.
Overall, Messick thinks this team is further along than the team he coached last year, even though last year’s team had much more experience than this one.
“(Last weekend) shows that we have the talent but not quite the experience yet,” Messick said. “I’m pleased with where we are and I think that we’re only going to get better.”
The Rams will now face in-state rival Colorado when they travel to Boulder today. The Buffaloes are currently ranked No. 36.
“They’re always a tough team and they’re in a tough conference,” Messick said. “They’re ranked No. 36 but they are still only ninth in the Big 12.”
A win against the ranked Buffs would give CSU a chance at becoming nationally ranked, but perhaps more importantly, it would give the players confidence to finish out conference play and vie for a high seed in the Mountain West Tournament at the end of the season.