STEVENS: Lobos Must Beat No. 1 Teams in Nation to reach ITA Indoor Sweet 16
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  01/29/2009
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Jan. 29, 2009

Lobo Tennis
Lobos at ITA Indoor Championships
Men: 11 a.m., Saturday at Ohio State vs. Virginia Tech
Women: 10 a.m., Saturday vs. Northwestern at Northwestern

By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

You have to give Lobo coaches Kathy Kolankiewicz and Alan Dils credit. They aren't dodging the No. 1 teams in the nation. In fact, their attitude is, "Bring `em on."

Kolankiewicz might be a bit bolder in her scheduling. When she picked Northwestern as her choice site in the first round of the ITA National Team Indoor Championships, the UNM coach knew exactly what would happen.

Her Lobos would be paired against the No. 1-ranked women's team in the nation: Northwestern.

"There are only about 25 teams that get a chance to play the No. 1 team in the nation," said Kolankiewicz. "It's always special to play No. 1. We're thrilled."

Dils' Lobo men also have a shot to play the No. 1-ranked men's team in the nation, Ohio State. But first the Lobos have to get past Virginia Tech. Dils' Lobos play V-Tech at 11 a.m. Saturday at Ohio State. Kolankiewicz's Lobos play No. 1 Northwestern at 10 a.m. Saturday.

If the Lobo men win, they advance to play Ohio State on Sunday. "You want to see how good No. 1 is," said Dils. "How close are we? Are they way ahead of us? Will some hard work narrow the gap? People often are in awe of No. 1, but sometimes they aren't that far ahead."

The ITA Indoors begin at 15 sites, four teams at each site, 60 total teams. The Lobos women will be joined at Northwestern by Tulsa vs. Washington State. The Ohio State men play Stetson.

Both Lobo teams play on Sunday. The eventual winners at each of the 15 sites advance to the ITA Indoor finals on Feb. 13-16: men at the Midtown Tennis Club in Chicago; women at the University of Wisconsin.

The host teams for the finals were guaranteed a spot in the finals, so there will be 16 teams battling for the ITA Indoor title at both sites. UNM is one of 31 schools to have both men and women teams competing in the event.

Kolankiewicz's Lobos played Northwestern last season in Albuquerque.

"They were in the Top Ten last year when we played them and I think they finished No. 2," she said. "They beat us 7-0. We didn't win a match against them last year, but we have the capability to win some matches this time. We really need to come out and play well.

"There is no pressure on us. If we win, it might be the biggest upset ever. We are the heavy underdogs and we're just going to go out there and play hard, see what the best is like and see how far we have to go."

The pairings for the ITA Indoor were based on a school's ranking. The top 15 teams got to host. Then 16 picked where it wanted to play, 17 picked, 18 picked and so on until all spots were taken.

Dils picked Ohio State not so much to be paired with the No. 1 Buckeyes, but because he thought Virginia Tech was a solid first-round match for his Lobos. UNM picked with the No. 44 ranking and V-Tech picked its spot from the No. 28 spot, so Dils' Lobos will be looking at two upsets in order to reach the ITA Indoor Sweet 16.

Dils also wanted to play in a big indoor facility. Kolankiewicz also wanted a big indoor site.

"If there are time restraints at some sites," said Kolankiewicz, "the matches might get stopped after they have been decided and some of your players might not get to play a match. There is a good chance at Northwestern, we'll play it to the end."

Ditto for Dils at Ohio State, who said the possibility of meeting the top-ranked team wasn't a concern when he selected his site.

"All the teams hosting are pretty good," said Dils. "You were going to have to beat somebody pretty good no matter where you went."

Dils' men's roster for the 2009 season includes Phillip Anderson, Chandler Brass, Miles Bugby, Ben Dunbar, Carl Ho, Graeme Kassautzki, Matthew Neeld, Johnny Parkes, Joe Wood and Elliot Chang.

Kolankiewicz's lineup includes Ola Abou-Zekry, Ashley Bonner, Manumea Durie, Emma Hayman, Maria Sotirchos, Anya Villanueva-Forte, Mackenzie White, Victoria Tessmar, Eliane Bourdages, and Sandra Walker,