For the first time, the University of Utah women's tennis team stood on the courts as NCAA participants today.
About noon the Utes played Kansas State in the opening round of NCAA Regional Championships in Lawrence, Kan. The Utes are seeded No. 5, Kansas State No. 4.If the Utes won, it would put them against Kansas, the No. 1 seed on Saturday, said Utah coach John Tsumas.
Wins this season against Cal-State Santa Barbara (ranked No. 31) and Oklahoma State (ranked No. 38), earned the Utes the NCAA invite.
The eventual winner of the regional event will receive an automatic invite to the finals May 10-18 in Tallahassee, Fla. BYU, ranked No. 9 nationally, was among 10 schools receiving automatic placement in the finals.
Over the years, Utah has come close to making the elite field, but never did. This year, under a new format, the Utes got the call. Other schools in the regional are No. 29 Oklahoma, Boise State, Colorado and New Mexico.
No. 1 seed KU beat Utah earlier in the year, 6-1. Several of the matches, however, went three sets.
Utah's No. 1 player, Mirja Wallmark, ranked No. 47 nationally in singles, lost to Karina Kuregian, ranked No. 78, in three sets, and No. 2 Linda Engblom lost to Yana Dorodnova, ranked No. 63, in three sets.
Currently riding a hot streak is Utah's Rebecca Foulger of Salt Lake City. She has won four out of her last six singles. Other players include Jennifer Jensen-Smith, Diana Marek, Angie Olson, Jammie Zenger and Molly Sanderson.