Eight members of the University of Colorado's co-ed tennis team began play in the final tournament of the season Wednesday morning as the United States Tennis Association National Campus Championships got underway in Surprise, Ariz.
The Buffs opened their matches at the Surprise Tennis and Racquet Complex against the University of Pennsylvania, and later played Tyler Junior College and Clemson, the other two teams in their pool.
There are 16 pools of four teams each in the tourney, and the top school from each pool will advance. Performing well in pool play will be crucial for the Buffs if they're to accomplish their main goals for the tournament.
"Our obvious goal for nationals is to win the tournament, but our minimal goal is to advance out of our pool in first place and advance to the gold bracket," said national team member Hank Lee. "So at the least, we'd like to place 16th out of 64, which would be an improvement from last year, when we placed 21st out of 64."
Wisconsin, Texas A&M, Cal-Berkeley, Central Florida and Texas may pose the biggest threat to the Buffs' hopes, as all five traditionally have been the teams to beat at the tournament. However, with strong showings in their tournaments earlier this season, CU stands an excellent shot at moving up.
At the Badger Classic at Wisconsin, CU advanced to the gold bracket. Then, the Buffs finished first at the Sun Devil Classic at Arizona State, and finally, the team placed first and second in the men's and women's matches at the Intermountain Sectional Tournament in Salt Lake City.
Despite the stiff competition, CU relishes the challenge and opportunity to play against the best.
"One thing I've learned growing up and playing competitive tennis is to love the battle and welcome the challenge," Lee said. "So I'm looking forward to getting out there and giving it all we have."