The sound was unmistakable Thursday: gasping.
After sweeping Utah Tuesday, the #42 University of Denver women’s tennis team got what their coaches called a “carrot” – a day off from practice Wednesday.
But now it’s Thursday – and now it’s a whole different story.
“Basically we just integrated a little extra fitness,” associate head coach David Loewenthal said after practice wrapped up (and the heavy medicine balls that were used for drills had been put away).
Utah has been vanquished, but there’s two more Pac-12 opponents the Pios (13-3, 3-0) hope to put away as well to extend their five-match winning streak. Saturday the team is in Tucson, AZ to battle the University of Arizona Wildcats (9-10, 1-7)at 12p MT before heading up I-10 to take on the #44 Arizona State Sun Devils at 9am MT. Note: both matches are available via livestream, the links are available at the end of this article.
Temperatures will be hotter than the team normally is accustomed to in Denver (the Phoenix area will be near 90 degrees on Sunday) but Loewenthal says his team is “battle ready” and prepared for any conditions.
Arizona: struggling but still dangerous
On paper, the Wildcats don’t look like they’ll bite or even scratch much. But they still shouldn’t be taken lightly.
A week ago they managed to win two points off #15 Washington. One of those points was from team leader Emma Wilson, who defeated then #92 Stacey Fung in singles.
In doubles play against another powerhouse UCLA, Wilson and her doubles partner Sophia Thomas also beat then #16 Elysia Bolton and Jada Hart.
“Emma’s work ethic and her ability to improve every day is what makes Emma a special player,” says Arizona head coach Ryan Stotland. On her impending date Saturday morning with #99 Bianca Mok of DU he says: “I have known Bianca since she was a junior from my home town and she is a terrific player. It will just be two great tennis players figuring out a way to win. It will be a very fun and exciting match to watch.”
Former Denver All-American Julia O’Loughlin beat Wilson when she was with Frenso State last year. She says both players are evenly matched but Mok still holds one key.
“Emma is a good player and they have similar styles but Bianca has a more consistent and well rounded game with I think will ultimately get her the win,” she says.
The Crimson and Gold took down the U of A 5-2 in 2017. Mok won in doubles and singles that day, while her present-day co-captain Arisha Ladhani got the job done in singles.
Arizona State: tough team with the tougher doubles game
The third Pac-12 matchup with the Sun Devils could end up much more intriguing.
ASU is having a solid year in the tough Pac-12, but their top doubles team is #3 in college tennis right now.
Lauryn John-Baptiste and Ilze Hattingh are strong, fast and experienced. DU’s Camille Verden-Anderson (who came up through the British tennis system alongside John-Baptiste) says she and Mok won’t be run off the court though.
“I know Lauren pretty well and I know she’s a pretty very, very good doubles player, I know that her and her partner are #3 right now so it should be a good opportunity for me and B,” the sophomore Verden-Anderson says.
For her part Mok does have a feel for what John-Baptiste and Hattingh will bring, she and O’Loughlin practiced with them last year on the sidelines of the NCAA doubles’ tournament.
Verden-Anderson likes where she says this Pio squad is going, saying they’re feeding off the energy from the Utah win, and like their prospects this weekend against two more Power Five foes.
“Just as a team I feel like we’re vibing.”