Stevens: Jasper's Lobos Are Hungry -- But Young
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  01/24/2014

New Mexico Women’s Tennis – 2014 Spring Season Preview

By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

The check list for Coach Erica Jasper when she takes her New Mexico Lobos on the road could read something like this:

Tennis rackets?  Check. Tennis balls? Check. Ids? Check. Pacifiers? Check.

OK, we joke.  Jasper’s Lobos have a tough edge, but there is no question that the New Mexico team that Jasper goes to war with this spring is a pack of Lobo pups.  Jasper has six scholarship freshmen trying to help the second-year Lobo coach rebuild the program.

"This is by far the youngest team I have ever coached and surely one of the youngest teams in the country,” said Jasper.

“However, despite our youth and inexperience in the college setting, I have a lot of confidence in this team's ability to compete.  They are a hungry and determined group and are here to bring Lobo women’s tennis to the top of the conference."

In her first season of 2012-13, Jasper did what most first-year coaches do.  She worked to change the culture and push the work ethic.  She had nine returning players that season coming off a 17-49 season that saw the Lobos lose 10 of their final 13 matches.

Last year New Mexico went 7-15 and 1-7 in Mountain West play. Jasper still has some work to do and, in a way, the UNM coach has to re-introduce the core values of her program. Remember, she has six freshmen and a first-year Lobo transfer.

Jaspers returns Michaela Bezdickova from Jaspers’ first-season roster.  She has added freshmen Susan Baklini, Rachana Bhat, Lizette Blankers, Dominique Dulski, Meredith Hopson, Emily Olivier and junior transfer Natasha Smith over from the Utah Utes.

She has a solid senior leader in Bezdickova, who has been around the Mountain West block and Smith has collegiate experience from the Utah courts.  After that, Jasper has a fistful of Lobos looking at their first steps onto a Mountain West/collegiate court.

“We are fortunate to have two outstanding leaders in Michaela and Natasha,” said Jasper, who was named the 2013 USTA/ITA Southwest Section Campus & Community Outreach Award Winner in December

 “Because of their leadership, we've been able to move quicker with this group than we expected. We are excited to get the spring dual match season started.  We have a really talented, young team and they are hungry to start.”

Bezdickova is a good senior to build around.  She went 22-12 in 2013 and was ranked No. 6 in the Mountain West in singles.  The Capital One All-Academic First Team award winner was an All-MW performer.  She is looking for her fourth consecutive All-MW season. In 2012, she posted a 21-9 net record.

“(Bezdickova) is a tremendous competitor and as a senior she is hungry to lead this team and she is motivated to achieve national rankings and advance to the NCAA Tournament,” said Jasper. “She is a very good college player and on her way to becoming a great college player.

“Her dedication to improvement and her work ethic are exactly what you need a senior to display to younger players.”

The Lobos are coming off a strong fall season where seven out of nine players posted winning records in singles.  Of course, the spring season is usually a tougher challenge and then comes the dog-eat-dog wars across the Mountain West nets.

San Diego State begins the spring season carrying the league’s top ITA ranking at No. 46 followed by UNLV at 50 and Fresno State at No. 56.

In the ITA Mountain Region rankings, Blankers is No. 12 in singles and Bezdickova is No. 18.  That combo is ranked No. 7 in the Mountain Region in doubles and the duo of Smith/Dulski is ranked No. 4.

Those teams reached the quarterfinals of the ITA Mountain Regions and UNM was the only team in the region to push two doubles teams into the quarters.

Jasper increased her fall schedule to get her young Lobos more experience at the collegiate level and she also has added more home games to the UNM slate this spring.  Last year UNM had five home matches and this spring there will be 12 at the Linda Estes Tennis Complex.  That also means less travel.

“We've upgraded our schedule this year and more than doubled our number of home matches, which is great for us and our fans,” said Jasper.

 “We will be more prepared for the stretch during conference play and going into the conference tournament.  We also will be more rested having played a less grueling schedule travel-wise.

“All the girls have shown a tremendous amount of improvement and their acceptance of the Lobo work ethic has been outstanding.”

New Mexico Lobos Women's Tennis -- 2014 Spring Roster

Name Sort by Name
Ht. Sort by Height
Yr. Sort by Eligibility Year
Exp. Sort by Years Experience
Hometown (Prev School)
Susan Baklini 5-5 Fr. HS Albuquerque, N.M. (Eldorado HS)
Michaela Bezdickova 6-0 Sr. 3L Olomouc, Czech Republic (Gymnazium Hejcin)
Rachana Bhat 5-4 Fr. HS Tucson, Ariz. (Catalina Foothills HS)
Lizette Blankers 6-0 Fr. HS Krimpen aan den ljessel, Neth. (Krimpenerwaard College)
Dominique Dulski 5-8 Fr. HS Indio, Calif. (La Quinta HS)
Meredith Hopson 5-7 Fr. HS Austin, Texas (Westlake HS)
Susanna Kuuttila 5-7 Jr. 2L Albuquerque, N.M. (La Cueva High School)
Emily Olivier 6-1 Fr. HS Spring, Texas (Klein HS)
Madison Porter 5-9 Fr. HS Parker, Colo. (Legend HS)
Natasha Smith 5-9 Jr. TR Long Beach, Calif. (University of Utah)