COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The Western New Mexico University tennis teams were picked to finish in the same spot as they finished last year as the men are the favorites to win the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference title again, while the women are picked to finish second.
The men tallied four first place votes and tallied 23 points to edge out Colorado Mesa’s 22 points and two first place votes. WNMU won their fifth straight RMAC title last year with a perfect 5-0 regular season and 2-0 conference mark. The Mustangs have gone 28-0 in regular season play and 10-0 in conference tournament play during their five year title run.
Senior Juan Pablo Fuentes and sophomore Jean-Laurent Pageault were named to the Preseason All-Conference Team. Fuentes tallied four singles victories last year, with three coming at No. 3 and the other at No. 4. He added eight doubles victories with seven coming at the top flight with now assistant coach Rodrigo Almeida. Pageault collected 10 singles victories with four coming at No. 2, five at No. 4 and one at No. 3. He also piled up 12 doubles victories with five coming at the top flight, six at No. 3 and one at No. 2.
The Mustangs will return six players (in addition to Fuentes and Pageault, Tristan Da Lio, Sascha Brechtel, Omar Lopez and Alvaro Nunez) from a 13-9 overall record last year that took them into regional play against Cameron. New players include Vladimir Gnilozubov and Pablo Santibanez.
Brechtel had 10 singles wins and seven doubles victories. Lopez posted four singles wins and 12 doubles victories. Nunez had 10 singles wins, including a seven match winning streak to end the season and 10 doubles wins.
On the women’s side, the Lady Mustangs collected 21 points and one first place vote to land in second. Colorado Mesa was the pick to win with 25 points and five first place votes. WNMU went 4-1 in the regular season and 1-1 in the conference tournament last year with their only losses coming to eventual champion Colorado Mesa.
Senior Ganna Tiurina was named the Preseason Player of the Year, while fellow senior transfer Pauline Emin was named to the Preseason All-Conference squad. Tiurina was the RMAC Player of the Year in both 2013 and 2014, while being selected as the Academic Player of the Year both seasons as well. She accumulated 12 singles victories at the top flight that included a seven match winning streak to end the season. She posted perfect 5-0 and 2-0 marks in the RMAC both in singles and doubles. Of her 12 singles victories, all were in straight sets except for one third set win. In doubles play she collected 10 wins with Marie Monier at the top flight that also included a seven match winning streak to end the year. Emin transfers for her final season after spending the previous years at Grand Canyon University. She saw action in 2012-13 where she went 2-1 in singles and 2-1 in doubles. In 2010-11 she recorded a 3-1 doubles mark, which included a pair of 8-0 victories.
The Lady Mustangs return five players (in addition to Tiurina, Diamond Morrill, Ashley Newll, Tiffany Newell and Claudia Osuna) from a 5-19 campaign last season and fell just short of winning the RMAC Tournament by a point to Colorado Mesa, 5-4. New players include in addition to Emin, Annica Betz and Tianna Zambrano.
Morrill collected five singles wins last year and added four doubles victories. Osuna tallied eight singles wins and four doubles wins.
WNMU will open the season first on the men’s side on Feb. 7 at Grand Canyon, while the women will open on Feb. 9 at home against Grand Canyon.