May 7, 2013
New Mexico Lobos Men's Tennis - 2012-13 Season Review
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
In a season that went a little off course for a whole lot of little reasons, maybe a little bit of the blame should be directed at Lobo Coach Alan Dils.
Maybe he should have yelled at his Lobos a bit sooner.
For sure, the Dils' chewing out session had some impact. His Lobos had just lost 4-3 at home to visiting UNLV and it was not a pretty Lobo finish. UNM lost in singles at the No. 1, No. 2, No. 4 and No. 6 spot.
Obviously, Dils was not happy especially since that spanking from the Rebels had followed two 7-0 road losses by his Lobos.
He had a few choice words for his team. He did not say them softly.
"I felt we didn't put our pride on the line," said Dils. "I yelled a lot after that match trying to wake up a few people. I didn't feel like anybody had the pride to finish a match.
"From that point on, we had the guys write `PRIDE' on their hand with a marker. It was just to remind the guys what they are playing for. Our whole mentality changed and it made a huge difference. Suddenly, we were winning a few more points and playing at a higher level."
The tongue lashing made a difference. The loss to UNLV was UNM's fourth in five matches. The Lobos finished the season winning five of seven and avenging one of those five losses (4-3 to San Diego State) by slapping the No. 1 seed Aztecs out of the Mountain West Championships.
UNM smoked SDSU 4-2 in the MW semifinals with Jadon Phillips, Conor Berg and Andy Van Der Vyver picking up singles wins. UNM got the doubles' point behind the teams of Berg/Van Der Vyver and Phillips/Simon Hegelund.
The Lobos powered into the MW finals and lost 4-3 to No. 2 Boise State with the final match being decided in a tie-breaker. UNM had lost 7-0 at Boise two matches before the Dils' lecture.
It was a strong finish for the 2012-13 Lobos. It was a finish that made Dils proud, but also had him thinking, "What if?"
"I'm only disappointed because we felt we had the talent and the schedule to at least go to the NCAA Tournament as an at-large, if we didn't win the Mountain West Tournament," said Dils.
"But it didn't work out that way. We win a couple of matches here and there and we're in there. And so many of our losses came down to just a few points.
"We got stronger as the year went along and we were at our greatest strength at the end. We were playing at a level (good enough to get at al-large bid) at the end, but we certainly didn't play like that all year. "
The Dils' motivational speech obviously woke up a few Lobos. The very next match UNM beat Fresno State 7-0. But many of the losses that came before that weren't simply the product of soft motivation.
This was a banged up group of Lobos and Dils was puzzling together lineups all season.
"I've had years where I've almost never changed a lineup and this year we had around 20 different lineups," he said. "We tried so many different combinations throughout the season and we'd have some success. But too often it was short-lived for various reasons.
"Every team goes through that, but it seemed like everybody had something at one point. It got to the point I was thinking, `Now what?'
"We had some strange, bizarre injuries and some illness that put guys out. We also struggled to find our identity as a team; just understanding the process."
The Lobos finished the season at 14-13 with a 5-4 Mountain West mark. UNM was 7-2 at the Linda Estes Tennis Complex. The Lobos got winning records in conference play from Conor Berg (4-1), James Hignett (3-1), Mitch McDaniels (3-2), Andrew Van Der Vyver (2-1) and Jadon Phillips (4-2).
In dual matches, only Berg (13-9), Van der Vyver (8-5) and Phillips (16-10) had winning marks among Lobos who played more than five matches in dual play.
"We really struggled at four, five and six," said Dils. "We had a spotty record there and we couldn't find anyone to rise up whether it was because of injury or illness or simply mental. We need to do better at those positions early."
The Lobos posted a 10-17 mark at the No. 4 spot, went 12-11 at No. 5 and went 13-12 at No. 6. Van der Vyver went 7-3 playing in the No. 5 and No. 6 slots. UNM also went 13-14 at No. 1 and 11-14 at No. 2.
Dils went into the season with a question mark in doubles and needing to pick up wins lost by four graduating seniors in 2012. UNM went 43-34 in doubles in dual meets and finished league play with a 9-9 mark.
"Doubles ended up being pretty good," said Dils. "We won a lot of doubles' points against a lot of really good teams.
"Overall, it was a frustrating year because of all the factors that had us juggling the lineup all year. But at the end, when we got healthy, we felt good about our team."