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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Pro/Con: Should tennis teams schedule tougher nonconference?

    Harder competitors needed

    Katie Miller / staff writer

    In the beginning of the tennis season, both teams were on track to great starts. The women’s team had its best ever start with a nine-game winning streak.

    The men’s team also started the season strong with a six-game winning streak. Yet both of these teams seem to have lost the competitive edge they had in the beginning of the season.

    This may be attributed to the fact that they are now playing conference games in the Pacific 10 Conference, which is considered to be one of the hardest.

    The women’s team is 1-4 against fellow conference teams, whereas the men are struggling going 0-4. Both teams have only eight matches left in the regular season to improve their record before entering the Pac-10 tournament.

    None of the teams that Arizona women competed and had victories against in the beginning of the season is currently ranked in the top 25. However, five women’s Pac-10 schools are currently ranked, including Arizona. With the men, four Pac-10 schools are in the top 25.

    One reason for both teams’ drops in success during conference play is that they played highly skilled teams previous to conference matches.

    For example, Stanford is No. 1 in women’s rankings. Previous to conference action, the Cardinal competed against four teams that are currently ranked in the top 25 with two others being ranked in the top 50.

    This shows that in order to be the best, a team must be able to beat the best. With a more demanding schedule, the Cardinal prepared for the tough competition that

    One of the reasons for both teams’ drops in success during conference play is that they played highly skilled teams previous to conference matches.

    awaited them in conference matches. Meanwhile, the Wildcats were able to start great but were unable to challenge themselves for what the competition in conference matches would be.

    Georgia is currently ranked No. 1 for men and competed against two other currently top-ranked teams in addition to tournaments.

    The Arizona’s men’s team has fallen into the same problem as the women: not having competed at a higher level previous to conference matches.

    Fortunately, the women have proven they are capable of beating a top-ranked Pac-10 team. On March 10, the team upset then-No. 24 Oregon.

    The men seem to continue to struggle. Had they competed against teams that were top-ranked, the level of competitiveness might be understood more.

    If both teams had played more skilled opponents, their record probably wouldn’t have been as good as it was. Yet the players would have faced competition that would have equaled or been better than what they would be facing during conference play and would have led them to be better prepared.

    That is more important considering the slump that both teams found themselves in. If the teams had faced more difficult challengers early on, they might have been able to upset some of their fellow conference schools.

    Katie Miller

    Early scheduling doesn’t matter

    Michael Schwartz / assistant sports editor

    While the Arizona men’s basketball team used a strong nonconference schedule to propel itself into the NCAA Tournament, it’s a whole different game in tennis.

    It’s true that the No. 62 men’s tennis team started out 6-0 in nonconference play before dropping four straight in the Pacific 10 Conference, and the No. 25 women’s team set the Arizona consecutive victories streak with a 9-0 start before the Wildcats lost their next four in conference play.

    But that has more to do with talent differences than not being ready for the team season.

    The truth of the matter is that the Arizona tennis programs are not at the same level as their conference counterparts from California, as both the men’s and women’s squads lost all four matches to Stanford, California, UCLA and Southern California, and they weren’t close.

    However, that wouldn’t change even if the teams played against squads with Andy Roddick and Maria Sharapova on them in the nonconference season because they just don’t have the talent to compete with the conference’s powers.

    “”It’s very difficult to compete with a Stanford or a Florida,”” Arizona women’s tennis head coach Vicky Maes said last year. “”They’re so tough, they get all the top Americans, they reload every year, and for us to even have a chance to compete in the Pac-10 we need to broaden our recruiting fields a little bit.””

    That’s why the women’s team fields an international roster, which still hasn’t been able to compete with the top of the conference.

    While the Arizona squads did not play any top-20 teams during nonconference play, it’s still not like they played Pima Community College, either.

    The men’s team took on No. 23 Boise State, No. 41 Fresno State, No. 57 Texas A&M Corpus-Christi and No. 69 William & Mary, beating everyone but the Broncos, while the women played No. 28 Fresno State, No. 42 Pennsylvania, No. 45 Denver and No. 53 Southern Methodist, taking down everyone but the Quakers.

    They might not be Stanford or UCLA, but that competition isn’t terrible.

    Even if the Wildcats wanted to play the top teams in the nation, it’s not like they could just go across the country and get the payout from a CBS-televised showdown. That’s got to be why both teams stayed in Tucson for most of the nonconference season, with the men venturing only to Idaho and the women taking trips to California and Texas.

    With many of the top programs, like North Carolina, Florida, Notre Dame and Duke, thousands of miles away, it’s not so easy for the tennis programs to hit the road to play tough competition, and it’s even harder to get them to come to Tucson.

    Even for the No. 1 Stanford women’s tennis dynasty, which played four matches against

    Even if the Wildcats wanted to play the top teams in the nation, it’s not likely they could just go across the country and get the payout from a CBS-televised showdown.

    top-20 teams, all those matches were played on one weekend, so they weren’t exactly jetting around the country to play the nation’s best.

    But when the Cardinal’s top players are doing that, during the fall individual season at competitions like the ITA National Indoor Championships, qualifying Wildcats are there as well.

    One day the Wildcats’ tennis program might reach the same status as its conference rivals in California.

    Until then, a little tougher nonconference competition isn’t going to change anything.

    Michael Schwartz

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