May 3, 2013
New Mexico Lobos Women's Tennis - 2012-2013 Season Review
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
In her push to make the season of 2012-13 a progressive step forward for Lobo tennis, Coach Erica Perkins Jasper says mission accomplished. She established the philosophical base of what it takes to play tennis for the University of New Mexico.
Now, the first-year UNM coach has to get ready to do it all over again. She returns only Michaela Bezdickova and Susanna Kuuttila and will bring in seven scholarship athletes and a walk-on this fall to form her 2013-14 roster.
But Jasper does not think any of her first-year brick laying will go to waste.
"Misa (Bezdickova) and Anna (Kuuttila) are two of our stronger competitors and they are back," said Jasper. "I'm excited about the talent we have coming in with our freshmen and we have two seasoned leaders to help continue the foundation we are trying to build.
"A lot of this season was laying a foundation in terms of the expectations of the program on the court and off the court, in the weight room, in conditioning, in the class room."
There is an old adage that pertains to sports and life: Start as you plan to go. Jasper has firm goals for the philosophical base from which to start her Lobo program. In a nutshell, it was a mortar of blue-collar work ethics that would make you better on the court.
But Jasper had a small problem with her start. The team of Lobos she inherited was all recruited by the former program and had been nurtured as young Lobos to a different set of expectations. Jasper needed to crack the whip - but softly.
"As a new coach, you have to be understanding, that you are inheriting some players who didn't sign up for you," she said. "As a player, they have to realize that they have to step up to your expectations and any changes you implement.
It is fair to say that not all Lobos bought in to the changes. Jasper will be minus in 2013-14 three non-seniors who began this season. Of course, that opened the door to Jasper adding some fresh faces, which were recruited to Jasper's standards. She has scholarships available from three graduating seniors, three Lobos transferring out, and one scholarship she had been saving.
Despite finished eight out of nine teams in the Mountain West regular-season race, UNM placed two players on the All-Mountain West team. Bezdickova, playing in the No. 1 spot, made the honors' list as an individual and in doubles along with Richardson.
"To see the look on Laura's face when she won that award was pretty special," said Jasper. "I'm pretty sure she slept with her plaque for at least a week.
"You don't see it very often where you have two seniors (Richardson and Oldani) who are named your most-improved players. They put out a special effort and I was proud of that effort and the leadership they showed."
The Lobos posted a 7-15 mark (1-7 in MW) this past season and lost seven of their final eight matches. The Lobos had winning individual marks only in the No. 1 and No. 6 hole. The UNM middle was soft. The Lobos were bumped out of the Mountain West Tournament by a Colorado State team the Lobos beat in the regular season. Jasper's Lobos have some growing to do.
"Overall, the won-lost record was a little disappointing," said Jasper. "We had five or six matches that we had in our grasp and we didn't take advantage of that. Sometimes as a coaching staff you take that personal; what could we have done differently to get the wins?
"But when you look at how the girls approached matches and competed, I couldn't be more pleased. We had a group who had never won much here and we wanted to put them in position to win matches. We did that better and better week by week and toward the end of the season there were very few matches where I felt we weren't competitive.
"We had a few matches on our racket that went the wrong way, but we had a few that we snuck away with. The first year as coach you know you won't have the wins you would love to have, there are some growing pains, but it's important you establish the direction you want for the program and for the players."
The direction this program needs to go in is obvious. UNM needs to be more competitive in the Mountain West and eventually open the door to postseason play. The obvious ace returning to help that push is Bezdickova, who posted a 22-12 record in singles. The senior-to-be has made the All-MW list in all three of her seasons as a Lobo.
"I improved this season, but at the end I was hoping for a little bit better results in conference," said Bezdickova. "I'm looking forward to next season.
"As a team, we definitely improved even through the results didn't show it. We were more competitive. We came out with more energy and everyone was competing really hard. I felt we were in almost every match."
Said Jasper: "Misa (Bezdickova) is a tremendous competitor. She is a good college tennis player, but she is learning about what it takes to be a great college tennis player. She wants to be great. She wants to leave here being nationally ranked and she wants to make the NCAA Tournament. She is hungry to do that.
"She had to learn how to play with the pressure of knowing that if we were going to win a match, she had to win her match. That made her stronger mentally and that's so important in this game. She is an unbelievably dedicated player."
Bezdickova and Kuuttila will be the building blocks that Jasper throws out in 2013-14 as she continues to mold her program. But next year there will be a huge difference. All Lobos on the court will start as Erica Perkins Jasper plans to go.