Despite losing two key players, the Cougars' 1998-99 season brings together a core of eight talented athletes that will provide experience and depth to the team.
Returning for their final year of collegiate competition are seniors Manuel Calvo and Benji Rideout. Head coach Jim Osborne now in his 10th year with the Cougars, has great confidence in the two experienced players.
"This should be an outstanding year for Manuel. He stepped up to the charge last year and played solid leading our singles lineup," said Osborne.
"Benji too will play a key role in the strength of our doubles play. Now that he has been accepted into medical school, he can finish his tennis career with a bang."
Damien Ward, a native of Canberra, Australia, is back for his third year with BYU. His international experience along with his two previous years of Division I competition will bolster the Cougar team.
"Damien will push and challenge for a spot at the top of our lineup. We expect he and Manuel will lead and strengthen our doubles performance," said coach Osborne, now in his 10th year with the Cougars.
Back for their second season are Jeff Harbach, who had an outstanding first season with the Cougars, posting a 16-8 singles record, and Provo native Nic Losee, who finished the year with a 8-5 dual match record.
"Jeff should continue adding to the success of his first year with us and we expect him to play a key role in our lineup both in singles and doubles. Nic played in four huge tournaments over the summer and played well for us in the fall competition. He should come in as our most improved player," commented Osborne.
Two other sophomores are on the 1998-99 roster for BYU. David White played for the Cougars during the 1995-96 season prior to serving an LDS mission to the Canary Islands. Jake Keller transferred from Metro State and also just returned from serving a mission to St. Petersburg, Russia.
Coach Osborne expects both athletes to have significant impact on the team.
"David just got back in January so we'll have to see how quickly he can get back into the game. Jake had an outstanding year as the number two singles player his freshman season at Metro State," adds Osborne.
Gert Vilms, from Tallinn, Estonia is BYU's lone freshman on this year's roster. The 6-3 player had an outstanding fall season with the Cougars. Vilms was a superb player in singles and doubles in the under 18 competition in Estonia and was a member of the Estonia Davis Cup team in 1997 and 1998.
"Gert played exceptionally well for us in our fall competitions. He's a hard worker and we anticipate him to be one of the great college tennis players," said coach Osborne.
An exciting and competitive season awaits the eight members of this year's squad. The dual match competition is a tough one with early road matches against tennis powerhouses USC and UC Santa Barbara. In March it's back to northern California for a huge meeting against national champions Stanford.
The Cougars have been invited to participate in this year's Santa Barbara Men's Invitational on March 25-28.
At home Cougar fans will have the opportunity to see great tennis action as BYU hosts Montana State, Fresno, UNLV and UTEP, as well as instate rivals Utah, Weber State and Utah State.
The strength of this year's anticipated lineup will allow the Cougars to contend for a WAC title in late April in San Diego.
That anticipated success will carry the team onto the NCAA Regionals and then the NCAA Championships in May in Athens, Georgia.
A lineup with a lot of depth, experience and match toughness has BYU and head coach Jim Osborne anticipating another successful season. Cougar fans can expect to see some of the best men's collegiate tennis in the country.