The UNM women’s tennis team will have two chances to pick up win number one, as it hits the road to compete against former coaches in Salt Lake City, Utah.
New Mexico head coach Stephanie Wooten-
Six of the eight current players on the UNM roster will be reunited with former UNM head coach Kelcy McKenna, who accepted the same position at Wisconsin last fall.
Her departure opened the door for Wooten-Quijada to take over at New Mexico. She said all three coaches have been in contact with each other, and she expects it to be a fun experience when the teams meet up this weekend.
“I’m looking forward to seeing both of them,” she said. “I think it’ll be a great week of tennis.”
The head coach said she hasn’t really talked with the players about the unique situation because the women have been so focused on their own team and goals.
New Mexico opened the season 0-4, but Wooten-Quijada said the team has competed hard and has the potential to break through with victories if it keeps sustaining the same work ethic and energy.
“Kind of a tough start with a tough schedule…we’ve had some injuries, but we are right in there,” Wooten-Quijada said. “I think we are right on the cusp of doing great.”
The team began the season on the road against some stiff competition and won’t play a home game until the middle of March, but the tough schedule should help develop the mental toughness needed to peak later in conference play.
Senior Andrea Leblanc said the early losses has not had a negative effect on the
“I’m not worried at all about starting 0-4,” she said. “Despite the results, we played really hard and have been close in every match. I know we are going to be fine.”
Wooten-Quijada said the team has also battled some early injuries in the season, causing some lineup changes and different pairings in doubles. That trend could also continue this weekend as she tries to find the right chemistry between players.
The team has eight capable athletes to fill six positions—something that could also benefit the team going forward. The head coach said she wants the women to have the versatility to play with anyone in case sickness or injuries occur.
Utah could be a tough place to pick up a win, as Wooten-Quijada said the Utes are especially good at home. The Lobos will likely need to get off to a good start and pick up the lone doubles point to get on the board early.
Utah (0-1) has played just one official match so far this season, losing 5-2 on Feb. 4 to Fresno State on the road.
Wisconsin (3-3) opened the season by winning three of its first four matches, but enter Saturday on a two-match losing streak. The Badgers dropped a tough one, 4-3, against North Texas on Feb. 11, and were swept by Oklahoma the following day.
Most of the Lobo roster played at least one year under McKenna, one of which was Leblanc. She said it will probably feel like there is a little something extra against Wisconsin, but the team is trying to treat it just like any other match.
The senior said she has already experienced playing against a former coach, Amy Sargeant. Leblanc said the former UNM assistant coached an opponent she competed against in the ITA All-American Championships during the fall.
Still, Leblanc said McKenna was usually in her court, and it will be a little weird that the former coach will be giving out instructions that are not directed toward her.
The Lobos will start the weekend against Utah on Friday at 1:30 p.m., followed by Wisconsin at 11 a.m. on Saturday.
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 email@example.com or on Twitter @robert_maler.