Mesa men’s tennis team eyes NCAA tourney berth
Colorado Mesa senior men’s tennis player Andres Hernandez sees a lot of similarities between this year’s team and the 2009-10 team.
Hernandez was a freshman on that team, which won the Central Region title and advanced to the NCAA Division II Sweet 16.
Both teams took second place in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference regular season, but this year’s team has four freshmen regularly in the lineup.
Their goal is the same — qualify for the NCAA tournament.
“We want to keep it up and go to nationals,” Hernandez said. “We’re on the right track. I think the freshmen realize how important it is. We have a great team.”
The Mavericks (14-12, 4-1 RMAC) will have to win the RMAC tournament this weekend at the Elliott Tennis Center on the campus of CMU to get an NCAA tournament bid. The RMAC tournament begins at 8 a.m. Saturday. The men’s championship is scheduled for noon Sunday.
The tournament was pushed back from its original Friday-Saturday schedule because of the spring storm that affected teams’ travel plans to Grand Junction.
The tournament is a team dual tournament, with the first team to win five matches advancing.
Mesa is the No. 2 seed behind Western New Mexico (12-12). Montana State-Billings is the three seed and Metro State is the fourth seed. The Mavericks’ men’s team received a first-round bye and plays either Colorado Christian or Montana State-Billings at 5 p.m. Saturday.
“Everyone has closed the gap on the men’s side,” Mesa coach Dan MacDonald said. “Western New Mexico is the team to beat, but it is ridiculously close between us, Billings and Metro State.”
Four men’s teams advance to the NCAA tournament, one automatic qualifier each from the RMAC and Heartland Conference tournaments. That leaves two at-large spots. Western New Mexico moved into the South Central Region rankings Wednesday at No. 5, with Colorado Mesa, No. 6 last week, falling out.
The Colorado Mesa women’s team (11-15) will have to win the RMAC tournament for a return trip to the NCAA tournament. The women’s team faces Colorado Christian in the first round at 8 a.m. Saturday. The women’s final is scheduled for 9 a.m. Sunday.
“This time of year, it’s win or go home,” MacDonald said. “You’ve got to focus on your tennis, the things you can control.”
Five women’s teams advance to the NCAA tournament from the region. The RMAC and Heartland each have an automatic qualifier, with three at-large bids.
Spencer Weinberg, who plays No. 2 singles for the Mavericks’ men’s tennis team, was voted the RMAC men’s freshman of the year and MacDonald the men’s coach of the year.
Andres Garcia-Rojas, a freshman from Toronto, Canada, who plays No. 3 singles for the Mavericks, made the RMAC first team.
Weinberg, a Grand Junction High School graduate, made the second team along with Jordan Lyden, a sophomore from St. George, Utah. Hernandez, a senior from Valencia, Venezuela, Taylor Macres, a freshman from Westminster, and Brason Hollabaugh, a senior from Amarillo, Texas, made the third team in singles.
Lyden and Weinberg, who play No. 1 doubles, made the first team in doubles.
CMU’s Shannen McNamara, a junior from Edwards, and Kaylee Davis, a junior from Abilene, Texas, made the women’s first team in singles. Sophomore Kristyn Wykert, from Laramie, Wyo., made the second team and Nicole Lessley, a senior from Canyon Lake, Calif., made the third team.
In doubles, Mesa’s No. 2 team of Wykert and Skylar Nelson made the first team and the No. 1 team of McNamara and Davis made the second team, as did the Mavs’ No. 3 team of Emily Dodson and Katie Metz.
Colorado Mesa has clinched an RMAC tournament berth. The Mavericks (21-12-1, 19-8-1 RMAC) are third in the conference with eight games left.
The Mavericks are ranked 10th in the first South Central Region rankings, with the top eight in the final poll after the conference tournaments qualifying for the national playoffs. Colorado School of Mines, ranked 12th in the nation, is No. 4 in the region, with CSU-Pueblo No. 8. West Texas A&M is ranked first, followed by Midwestern State and Texas Woman’s University.
Colorado Mesa’s Lisa Pille, a senior third baseman from Fort Collins, was selected to the RMAC softball All-Academic first team on Wednesday.
Pille has a 3.76 GPA in nursing and is one of five Mavericks honored.
Ashley Pulido, a junior pitcher from Ojai, Calif., with a 3.87 GPA in kinesiology, made the second team. Three sophomore outfielders made the honor roll: Rachel Boothe (Thornton, 3.53, graphic design), Brooke Ortale (Yorba Linda, Calif., 3.42, sports management), and Tawnee Woosley (Aztec, N.M., 3.46, nursing).
To qualify for academic honors, student-athletes must have a 3.30 GPA or higher, be a starter or reserve and completed two consecutive semesters or three quarters at their current institution.
All Academic Baseball
Nine Colorado Mesa baseball players were selected to the RMAC All-Academic team this week.
Junior outfielder Austin Kaiser (3.76 GPA, exercise science), senior infielder Colton Little (3.58, mass communications), sophomore infielder Nate Robertson (3.57, sports management), junior pitcher Cody Lahman (3.62, kinesiology) and senior outfielder Mitch Corwin (3.50, sports management) made the first team.
Redshirt freshman Davis Cantwell (3.73, exercise science), senior pitcher Joey Capistran (3.50, sports management), sophomore pitcher Andrew Malone (3.34, chemistry) and sophomore infielder Bryce Bhemer (3.43, mathematics) made the honor roll.