Vandal Golf and Tennis Preview

Spring will see Idaho taking to the golf course and tennis court in NCAA competition. Inside we take a look at the teams Idaho will be fielding in both sports.

Vandal golf report

The 2004-05 Idaho men's golf squad feature experience (3 returning 5th-year seniors); the Lady Vandals are very young (no seniors) but will feature what veteran coach Brad Rickel said might be the best recruit he has every signed. Both teams are expected to challenge the Big West leaders at the conference tournament later this spring.

He capsulized his squads recently for the Latah County Vandal Boosters.

"The women's team this year is very young -- no seniors -- but very talented," Rickel said. "I thought they would have a good fall, but I think they exceeded my expectations a bit. We brought in a freshman this year, Renee Skidmore from Everett, Washington. She is quite possibly the best signing I have ever had and may be the best Idaho golfer ever by the time she's done. As a freshman, she won her first tournament, took 3rd in her 2rd tournament, and took 2nd in her 3rd tournament giving her an individual record of about 250-3 through her first 3 tournaments as a freshman. She was the BWC golfer of the month in her first month here. Sophomore Cassie Castleman is going to push her the entire time. She was our best player last year as a freshman. Remember those two names."

"We won our tournament. We took 2nd at Gonzaga tournament and took 2nd at Colorado tournament, our first 3 tournaments out of the chute. Each tournament had been 12 and 19 teams; so we had a great start. We have all 7 of our players averaging 79 and under, and Renee is averaging 73. Spring will get a little tougher for (them), but they have a very good chance of playing in the NCAA regional," he predicted.

Rickel said the recently-completed fall schedule was one of hardest fall schedules he had every developed, but he had his 3 seniors in mind when he compiled it. "I have 3 5th-year seniors," he said. "I set them up a schedule that was like no schedule we've ever had to reward them for all their hard work over the years, and it's the toughest schedule we could have possibly put together. We played well, we kept finishing in the middle of the pack. We shot 19 under in our tournament." Putting that into perspective, Rickel explained how the UI course is set up for collegiate action. "If you play (the course) the way we play it...we play it as a par 71 playing from the blue tees." That made the 19-under posted at the UI Invitational equivalent to 31 under par if the course is set up for recreational play.

The coach is also excited about the future landing another highly-recruited high school senior who has an excellent shot at crashing the top 5 on the ladder next fall. "We just signed Jacob Koppenberg from Everett, Washington. He who just shot 62 to win a tournament last week, and he's won many tournaments. As we drew up the board on who we wanted to sign, he was my #1. Signing him was huge for us, and I think as a freshman next year he will most likely play in our starting 5." Continuing to build a solid foundation for next year's entry into the WAC, the Vandals had redshirted both freshmen who entered the program this year.

The Vandals have set up a rigorous tournament schedule this year to prepare themselves for the Big West Tournament next April. "In the spring we're playing tournaments that are great tournaments, definitely ones we will be competing to win and to set ourselves up for the pressure of the last round trying to win a tournament so when we get to conference we'll be in that mode. It's tough in the fall and still tough in the spring."

Both squads are in the midst of off-course workouts to prepare physically for the spring tournament grid. Rickel said his golfers are really benefiting from their workouts with Vandal strength and conditioning coach Aaron Ausmus and his staff. "Our new strength coach is something else," he said. "They've put together a program, and it's pretty fun. (Ausmus) was the strength coach for the USC golf team; so it's a step up for us. It's a lot of least it's been fun to watch," he laughed.

Vandal tennis preparing to open spring season

Idaho assistant tennis coach Brad Lum-Tucker told the Latah County Vandal Boosters the future is looking good for both the men's and women's program. Lum-Tucker, the #1 player for the Vandals last year, is in his first year assisting Katrina Perlman who is coaching both squads.

The Vandals recently completed their fall seasons and are preparing to begin spring action in January.

"It's a new era of Vandal tennis this year," Lum-Tucker said. "This year is a rebuilding year for the men. We have a young team with 4 new recruits and 3 returnees. Of those 3 returnees, only 2 are playing because one is injured. The two seniors are Seth Banks from Ada,Ohio and Hector Mucharraz from Mexico City, Mexico. They're our captains. Our junior is David Suttner. Unfortunately David's been battling ACL injuries for the past 2 years. He tore it in the fall of last year, then he went through the whole year last year and rehabbed only to come back this year and tear it again. He's been a great mentor for the younger guys, and he's shown a lot of leadership. We're really happy with him this year in spite of the bad news for him.

"Two of our recruits are freshmen (Terence Nugent and Robert Chalkley). Both are from Great Britain...both are really talented and they'll contribute right away to the team and hopefully for the next 4 years. We have two transfers including Michael Suttner (David's brother) from South Africa. Michael came to us from the University of Colorado as a sophomore. He's a very talented player. We also have a transfer from Treasure Valley Community College (Ontario, Oregon): Uriah Jones, from Wilder, Idaho.

"In tennis we have a short fall season which we completed about a month ago, basically just individual tournaments. It gives us an idea of the ability of our players and what we need to work on for the spring. We had an up and down fall season with the men, some good results and some disappointing results, but overall I think we made progress that hopefully will carry over into the spring. One of our freshmen (Nugent) won his flight down in that was a good thing. In Montana at the Montana Invitational Terence and Rob both reached the semifinals.

"Hopefully we'll carry some positive momentum into the spring season which starts in Boise against Utah State and Boise State January 16 and 17," he added. "I think we can have a solid year. It just depends on how fast the new players mature and adjust to college tennis. If they can mature I think we'll have a great season. We have a lot of potential. We just have to work hard."

Lum-Tucker also gave a preliminary report on the Vandal women but deferred more in-depth comments to Perlman. "We've got 8 really good players including 7 returning, he said. "They have a lot more experience (than the men). It's a very diverse group. We have a girl from almost every continent: Two from South Africa, one from Argentina, one from Australia, one from Israel, one from Canada, and two from the US - San Diego and Hawaii. Coach Perlman has been very happy with the fall season so far. Our #1 player is (senior) Sunel Nieuwoudt from South Africa who lost only one singles match this fall season, and there's a good chance that she'll be nationally ranked."

Joining Nieuwoudt on the roster are juniors Tara Fielding from Brisbane, Australia and Kareen Konishi from Lihue, Hawai'i; sophomores Jessica Hubbard from Johannesburg, South Africa, Patricia Ruman from San Diego, California, and Mariel Tinnirello from Capital Federal, Argentina. Two redshirt freshmen round out the squad: Efrat Leopold from Ra'Anana, Israel and Lauren Shrubb from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Shrubb joins the Vandals after transferring from the University of Colorado.

They Lady Vandals open spring action January 28 at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston.

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