PROVO -- The No. 44 BYU women?s tennis team, coming off three straight conference victories, will host the 2002 Mountain West Conference Tournament beginning Thursday. The Cougars will start the tournament by playing in-state rival Utah on the first day of the three-day tournament at 2 p.m.
BYU has overcome injuries to several key players at different times this season to gain the No. 4 seed for the tournament. BYU head coach Craig Manning is excited to see how the Cougars will play now that everyone on the team has gotten over their injuries.
?This is the healthiest we?ve been all season,? Manning said. ?Everybody is playing well and everybody?s healthy, so we?re ready.?
In 2001, BYU steamrolled the rest of the conference on its way to a perfect 7-0 dual-match record. The Cougars kept it going in the MWC Tournament, when they won the championship with three consecutive wins.
This year will be harder for the Cougars, with three other teams ranked ahead of them nationally. BYU struggled early in the conference schedule, but finished strong with some tough wins on the road.
Joining BYU in the national rankings is No. 19 UNLV, No. 28 San Diego State and No. 55 New Mexico. During the regular season, the Cougars lost all three matches against the other ranked opponents.
Now that the Cougars are healthy though, Manning thinks a repeat is definitely possible and he feels the Cougars match up well with each team.
?I think we can do it,? Manning said. ?I really believe we can win, but we?re going to have to play well.?
With the No. 4 seed, BYU will have the toughest opening round match of the top seeds. While BYU easily knocked off Utah 5-2 in the season finale, Utah is still a tough team with talented players.
?They?re not easy,? Manning said. ?I think we?d rather have a harder match first to get us going.?
Brooke Beverley, who missed the final two matches of the season, is healthy again and will play in the tournament. She will probably join forces with Dominique Reynolds in doubles play, and the pair is ranked No. 35 in the nation.
Reynolds has been on fire lately in singles play, winning her last 12 matches. Her last loss of the season came way back on Feb. 20, and during the streak she has only lost one set.
Newcomers Rebecca Pike and Nicole Schneider, both from Australia, have given the Cougars much needed depth in their lineup. Pike was not cleared to play until seven matches ago, but she is starting to come around at the right time.
Lu Oswald, Lindsay Ferrell and Liza Khoudoiarova have been the other Cougars giving the team consistent play. Oswald moved all the way up to the No. 1 singles position by the end of the season, and she won her final match of the season over Sheri Esrock of Utah.
Ferrell and Oswald played most of the year together in doubles at the No. 2 position, while Khoudoiarova teamed with Pike at No. 3. In singles play, Khoudoiarova has been extremely successful at the bottom of the lineup, compiling a 17-9 season record.
The winner of the conference tournament gains an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. The tournament selections should be made Wednesday.
To follow all the action from the MWC Tournament, the recaps and photos from each match will be posted on the internet at themwc.fansonly.com/sports/w-tennis/stats/wtennis-today-mwc.html