Women's Tennis: A Season In Review
Expectations were high for the New Mexico womens tennis team coming into the 2003 spring season. Faced with a daunting schedule composed of more than 11 ranked teams, the Lobos were amped about the possibility of making an impact on the national stage as well as closer to home in the Mountain West Conference ranks.
The squad, made up of one freshman, one senior, two sophomores and three juniors, could be considered young and relatively inexperienced, but was undoubtedly teeming with talent. Returning to the team were 2002 MWC all-singles team members Tjasa Suvak and Sandy Lukowski as well as all-doubles honoree, Tiffany Robertson. Moreover, freshman Maja Kovacek was expected to make an impact in spring play after spending most of her time at UNMs No. 1 singles spot during the fall season.
The Lobos started their season at home vs. NAU and captured a 7-0 sweep of the Lumberjacks, which would begin a record-setting home court mark of 9-0 this season. The first ranked opponents UNM faced were No. 57 Boise State and No. 40 Washington State. Although the Lobos lost both matches, freshman Maja Kovacek had an exciting win over BSUs No. 74-ranked Renate Stoop.
UNM continued its undefeated run at the Lobo Tennis Club with wins over No. 46 Kansas and Denver as well as victories againt central region rivals New Mexico State and Tulsa. Perhaps the Lobos stiffest competition came on a southern road trip where the team met up with No. 20 South Alabama, No. 23 Virginia Commonwealth and No. 34 Tulane. Despite keeping the matches close, UNM fell to all three powerhouse squads. Junior Sandy Lukowski hit a career milestone against Tulanes No. 20-ranked Julie Smekodub, posting her biggest personal win over a ranked opponent as well as for UNM in 2003.
The Lobos had a tough start to MWC play, losing two straight to No. 30 San Diego State and No. 33 UNLV. The pair of losses were the only conference defeats they would suffer, as they went on to win three staight at home over Air Force, Utah and BYU (only the second time ever the Lobos had beaten the Cougars). New Mexico wrapped up the season in Colorado with victories over Wyoming and Colorado State.
The team finished up third in the MWC behind San Diego State and UNLV with a 5-2 conference mark. In the first round of the MWC Championships in San Diego, the Lobos swept Air Force 4-0 to advance to the quarterfinals. There, they met No. 1-seeded host team SDSU and fell 4-1. Although NCAA hopes were lost upon the defeat by the Aztecs, the Lobos could find some solace in their winning record of 15-9 as well as their impressive conference play which was recognized by the Mountain West. The conference rewarded the Lobos with three Player of the Week awards which were given to Lobo freshman Maja Kovacek, sophomore Tiffany Robertson and junior Sandy Lukowski.
As well, several Lobos received post-season accolades. Freshman Maja Kovacek and junior Sandy Lukowski were both named to the 2003 all-MWC singles team. The two were named together on the all-MWC doubles team as well, along with fellow teammates Tiffany Robertson and Michelle Heidbrink. Most notably, Kovacek was named the I.T.A. Central Region Rookie of the Year, an honor that UNM had not enjoyed since 1997. The freshman finished up the season with a 23-12 record which led all Lobo singles players.
The Lobos completed the 2003 season at No. 54 in the nation and boasted three players listed in the top-115 in the country during the season. Junior Sandy Lukowski had the highest Lobo national ranking of No. 82. The doubles team of Lukowski and Maja Kovacek was given No. 55 ranking by the I.T.A. in April.
ANOTHER YEAR OF SUCCESS FOR HEAD COACH KATHY KOLANKIEWICZ
Dr. Kathy Kolankiewicz recently completed her 18th year at the helm of the University of New Mexico womens tennis program. Through her leadership, the program has experienced both consistency and success throughout the years. Kolankiewicz has guided the Lobos to appearances in the NCAA Championships five of the last eight seasons. She has won 66 percent of her matches, posting a 270-179 career record. Between 1996 and 2000, Kolankiewicz took the womens tennis team to the Mountain West and Western Athletic Conference finals or semifinals every year. During that time the Lobos received their highest ever national ranking, reaching #21 both in 1996 and 1999.
SPOTLIGHT ON... Tjasa Suvak is tied for 12th all-time at UNM for career singles wins. The junior has 60, which puts her at the same mark as Inger Sanderud who played for the Lobos from 1988-90.
Suvak has also made history with the number of combined career singles and doubles wins she now has. Presently,the Belca, Solvenia native possesses a total of 110 which puts her in 14th place all-time at New Mexico.
2003 ALL-MWC SINGLES TEAM Laura Nigro - Jr. - Air Force Hadley Macfarlane - Fr. - BYU Dominique Reynolds - Sr. - BYU Sanja Hansson - Sr. CSU Maja KovacekFr. UNM Sandy LukowskiJr.UNM Lindsey HedbergJr.SDSU Katalina RomeroJr.SDSU Silvia TornierSr.SDSU Tracie ChongSo.UNLV Paulina JanusSr. UNLV Gyorgyi ZsirosSo. UNLV
2003 ALL-MWC DOUBLES TEAM Laura Nigro/Gina BlackAir Force Leeza Klempner/D. ReynoldsBYU Sandy Lukowski/Maja KovacekUNM Tiffany Robertson/M. HeidbrinkUNM Katja Karrento/Lindsey HedbergSDSU Silvia Tornier/Indra ErichsenSDSU
LOBOS AGAINST RANKED OPPONENTS
|No. 57|Boise State|L, 4-3|2/14|
|No. 40|Washington State|L, 5-2|2/15|
|No. 46|Kansas|W, 7-0|2/23|
|No. 44|Oklahoma|L, 6-1|3/1|
|No. 75|CSU-Northridge|W, 5-2|3/2|
|No. 53|Tulsa|W, 4-3|3/9|
|No. 23|South Alabama|L, 4-2|3/13|
|No. 23|VCU|L, 6-1|3/14|
|No. 32|Tulane|L, 6-1|3/16|
|No. 30|San Diego State|L, 5-2|3/20|
|No. 33|UNLV|L, 4-3|3/21|