After finishing the regular season with an 11-9 record and 2-3 Mountain West Conference record, the BYU men's tennis team surprised everyone but themselves when they won the MWC Tournament with three straight wins, including a 4-1 win over No. 1 San Diego State.
Gert Vilms and Carlos Lozano led the way for the Cougars in 2001, forming a doubles team that recorded 25 wins on the season, a No. 32 national ranking and a trip to NCAAs in Athens, Ga.
At the NCAA Tournament, Vilms and Lozano put a scare into the nation's third-ranked doubles team, SMU's Johan Brunstrom and Jon Wallmark, losing in three sets, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1. Vilms also headed to nationals in singles, but lost to No. 16 Alex Hartman of Mississippi, 6-3, 7-6 (7-5).
By winning the conference tournament, the Cougars, ranked No. 67 in the nation, automatically qualified for the NCAA Tournament as a team. Even better for the BYU squad was the surprising news that they were going to host the first round in Provo, hosting No. 14 Cal-Berkeley, along with Fresno State and Wake Forest. BYU took the Golden Bears to the wire, winning the doubles point and taking the final three singles matches to the third sets, before finally losing, 4-1.
Anton Rudjuk and Michael Gysens also played well for the Cougars, along with freshman Eric Nyman. All three split time at the No. 3 spot with Nyman finishing the season there, and Rudjuk finishing at No. 4. Jeff Harbach, the team captain, added needed leadership and experience after sitting out the previous season due to an injury. He finished the year at 6-9, playing the three, four and five spots.
After starting the season with a tough California road trip that included four top 25 teams, including the No. 3 team, the Cougars won eight in a row. In conference play, BYU started by defeating Utah, losing to New Mexico, then beating Air Force. The Cougars lost to both San Diego State and UNLV in the regular season.
The Cougars surprised many with their strong play despite being so young. With no seniors on the team and only three juniors, BYU is looking forward to a 2002 season that will see the Cougars break into the top 25.
"Everyone is coming back," said head coach Jim Osborne. "We'll have a strong team next year, a team that has the potential to make itself one of the top 25 teams in the country."