The New Mexico women’s tennis team will start a tough spring schedule in Athens, Georgia against one of the best teams in the nation.
The Lobos saw a lot of action on the road during the fall, as first-year UNM coach Stephanie Wooten-Quijada prepared the team for the elite competition they will see on Saturday.
The Lobos will have their hands full as Georgia was ranked No. 6 in the country in the ITA rankings according to ncaa.com. The Bulldogs are the host school in the ITA Kick-Off Weekend event.
Wooten-Quijada said the team is eager for the challenge, and the opportunity for the roster to finally get a chance to play together.
“We are excited to play one of the best teams in the country,” she said. “It will be really, really nice because this is our first trip with everyone together.”
The team split the roster during the fall to compete in multiple events, and endured some obstacles in the form of injury and illness. But the team should be healthy and ready to focus on playing team tennis, a concept the head coach said her players have already bought into.
Wooten-Quijada said the student-athletes are very team-oriented and like to cheer each other on. She said that enthusiasm will be a key in Georgia.
“Our main goal is to compete hard every match,” the new head coach said. “This team is very passionate — they love representing UNM when they suit up in the silver and cherry.”
The roster showcases five seniors for the 2017 season, each having exhibited leadership qualities during Wooten-Quijada’s transition in taking over the program.
The team also returned sophomore Ruth Copas and added freshman Cassie Chung and Diana Wong. Wooten-Quijada said the newcomers have done a phenomenal job since stepping onto campus and have a great attitude about their roles.
“They are fortunate to have such great leadership their freshman year,” Wooten-Quijada said. “They definitely add depth to our roster.”
Rachana Bhat, Ludivine Burguiere, Dominique Dulski, Andrea Leblanc and Emily Olivier make up the senior class. Their experience should help the team reach the level of play it needs to compete for a conference championship and NCAA tournament bid.
She said Georgia has a great roster, but knows her team will be “respectfully ready” for them when they take the court.
The other teams participating in action include Georgia State and Illinois. Wooten-Quijada said those are also really good teams, and it is nice to get an opportunity to play other schools outside of the conference.
According to a release, the winner of the four-team tournament will return to play for a big at the ITA National Team Indoor Championships.
The match is scheduled to begin Saturday at 11 a.m. and a link on the Georgia team website will stream video of the action.
Depending on the result, the Lobos will face either Georgia State or Illinois the following day.
Robert Maler is the sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers football and men’s and women’s tennis. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @robert_maler.