The University of Utah men's tennis team got the invitation and opportunity. Now it's up to the six men to play just a little bit above their best effort thus far this season for tickets to the NCAA finals.
The Utes will play in the NCAA Region 7 playoffs this Friday and Saturday on the BYU Campus.They will enter as the No. 4 seed in the four-team event, and will play the No. 1 seed, University of Southern Alabama, first round. But, that's not all bad. The No. 2 seed, the University of New Mexico beat Alabama twice, and the Utes nearly beat the Lobos in the WAC tournament.
"So, we're looking at this as an opportunity to pull an upset. We have nothing to lose. Also, we're excited to play at this altitude," says Utah coach F. D. Robbins. Alabama will find the thinner air in Utah a little more difficult to play in.
Alabama is 19-7, the Utes 11-13. The Lobos will play Boise State, the No. 3 team. Nationally, Alabama is ranked No. 16, the Lobos No. 17 and Boise No. 28. The Utes are not ranked.
Playing No. 1 for the Utes is Christian Svensson, a junior from Stockholm, Sweden. Currently ranked No. 25 nationally, Svensson has received an automatic invitation into the individual NCAA finals. He lost in the third set to the Nos. 2 and 3 ranked collegiate players this season.
Other players include Magnus Hjalmarson, a senior from Stockholm; Glen Irwin a sophomore from Sydney, Australia; Brandon Owens, a junior from Salt Lake City; Cory Dolas, a freshman from Eagle, Idaho; and Philippe Rodrigue, a freshman from St. Georges, Canada.
The Utes will play South Alabama Friday at 2 p.m. The Jaguars are the Sun Belt Conference champions. New Mexico will play Boise State at 10 a.m. All matches will be on the outdoor courts in the BYU campus. The championship match will be played Saturday at 10 a.m.
South Alabama went to the national championships last year.
Tickets for the event are $4 general admission, $2 students for Friday's matches, $5 and $3 for Saturday's championship match. Two-day passes are available at $7 general admission and $4 for students. Advance tickets can be purchased at the Marriott Center ticket office, or by calling 1-800-322-BYU1. Tickets will also be available the day of the event at the entrance gate.
Fresno State, this year's WAC champion, was automatically invited to the national championship. The Bulldogs bypass the regional competition because they were among the top eight seeded teams in the nation.
The winner of the regional championship advances to the national championships beginning May 18 in Athens, Ga.