Age is not a measure of experience or talent. Â The Idaho womenâ€™s tennis team will look to prove this motto with a roster full of young players when the program travels to the Big Sky Conference postseason tournament.
Four teams have already clinched a berth in the tournament, which begins April 29 in Sacramento: Idaho, Northern Arizona, Sacramento State and Weber State. In addition, Montana State and Eastern Washington are also expected to earn postseason spots.
The Vandals have three matches left in the regular season, with two against Big Sky opponents.
It is possible for Idaho to move up from third to second in the conference standings, but the team needs to sweep the remaining matches, while Sacramento State would have to lose its remaining conference matches.
Idaho head coach Mariana Cobra said she is not concerned with conference rankings in the postseason tournament. She said she wants her team to do the best they can to prepare for the tournament instead.
â€œWe still want to do well and come out as winners, but having made the tournament definitely gives them a lot more confidence in their game,â€ she said. â€œWe are going to do what we can do and control what we can control, but we canâ€™t really change the other teams playing right now.â€
The Idaho roster is one of the youngest in the conference, with three freshmen and two sophomores. Belen Barcenilla and Rita Bermudez are the teamâ€™s only seniors.
Cobra said she does not think the pressure will affect the younger members of the team.
â€œThis year has been a really good year to expose those players in those spots,â€ Cobra said. â€œEvery match we have them coming out big for us. We are consistently telling them â€˜It will probably come down to you.â€™ And it probably will.â€
Cobra said she was confident her freshman would be able to step up to the challenge when the opportunity came. She said Marianna Petrei is a freshman who could make a difference in the postseason for the Vandals.
Petrei is currently 18-2 in singles competition and undefeated against Big Sky opponents. Her performance has allowed her climb to the teamâ€™s No. 1 singles spot.
Conference leader Northern Arizona has only one freshman, Livia Hollosy, on the roster, while second place Sacramento State has a total of six freshmen. However, the Hornets have a much larger roster compared to other Big Sky teams.
Before the team competes in postseason play, Idaho will first have to face North Dakota, Northern Colorado and Seattle U to conclude the regular season. The Vandals will be on the road for all three matchups.
Brandon Hill can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @brandonmtnhillÂ Â