(Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
The 2003-2004 BYU men's tennis team posted one of the NCAA's toughest regular season schedules making this season a challenge from the beginning. The Cougars finished ranked No. 69 nationally, with an overall record of 8-15 and a fifth place finish in the Mountain West Conference Tournament in San Diego.
The Cougars began the season as a young team and without two of their top players, Jose Lechuga and Richard Dasek. Lechuga broke his ankle the week before the season opener against Utah State and was forced to sit out the entire season while Dasek suffered from back and shoulder pains, but returned to play midway through the season. BYU head coach Brad Pearce had to look to his freshmen, Tim Bradshaw and Chip Hand to fill in the gaps.
BYU got off to a great start in the fall campaign by hosting the BYU Invitational in September. Senior Erik Nyman went 10 straight matches without a loss in the tournament eventually defeating Boise State's top seed, Matias Silva in the final round. In the doubles final, Nyman teamed with Richard Dasek to defeat teammates Jose Lechuga and newcomer Nima Roshan.
Following the BYU Invitational, the Cougars moved on to the ITA All American Championships where they had a good representation by each player. Nyman made it as far as the consolation semifinal match where he lost to Pedro Rico of Peppedine in a three-set thriller.
In the regional playoffs in Las Vegas, BYU continued its winning tradition as doubles duo Lechuga and Roshan pulled off a big win to earn a bid to the National Indoor Qualifier. Lechuga and Roshan fell to a tough TCU team in an 8-3 decision in the qualifier. The entire team competed in the National Team Indoor Championships the following week. Despite two come-from-behind wins, the Cougars lost to New Mexico and watched the national nod slip away.
The primary goal for the Cougars before the regular season began was to finish in the top 25 nationally. In order to accomplish that goal, head coach Brad Pearce knew his team had to match up against the nation's top teams. With only three scheduled home matches, the BYU men got set for a lot of traveling.
Joining the BYU team in January were sophomores Ivan Kokurin from Tashkent, Uzbekistan and Dominik Kaufhold from Ratingen, Germany. Both players saw considerable playing time throughout the season and contributed greatly to the program.
In the regular season opener BYU faced a double header hosting Utah State and the University of Denver. First the Cougars blanked Utah State 7-0 then dropped the next match to Denver in a 5-2 finish. Following the home opener, the Cougars went on the road for six straight matches losing all six in close competition. Included in the road trip were No. 11 Washington and No. 2 UCLA where Chip Hand walked away with a big win over No. 18 Chris Lam to post the only win for BYU against the Bruins.
Returning to Provo, BYU played host to region rival Boise State who spoiled the homecoming with a 6-1 win over the Cougars. Now 1-8 on the season, the BYU men went back on the road, this time to Oklahoma to take on Tulsa, and Oklahoma State only to drop two more matches.
Improving with each tough match, the Cougars earned their second win against UC Santa Barbara moving to 2-10 on the season. They did not have much time to bask in the delight of sweet victory as two days later the Cougars faced Arizona State and No. 7 Stanford losing both matches, but not without a fight. Nyman knocked off Stanford's Sam Warburg who, only days earlier, ousted the No. 1 player in the nation.
Closing out the California road swing, BYU posted an impressive 4-3 win over No. 29 Cal Berkeley and moved to No. 65 nationally. Again, Nyman led the Cougars with a big win over Cal Berkeley's top seed Balazs Veress, who also defeated the top player in the nation the previous week.
BYU started conference competition with San Diego State and UNLV in Las Vegas. The Aztecs routed the Cougars 5-1 and the UNLV match was cancelled due to a desert rainstorm. The Cougars returned home for two big wins over the University of Pacific and Weber State followed by two more wins over Utah and Air force but fell in their final regular season conference match to New Mexico. Making up the cancelled UNLV match, BYU invited Montana State to Provo where the Cougars tacked on their final win, finishing 8-14 in regular season play.
In the first round of the Mountain West Conference Tournament the BYU men's team fell to rival Utah in a 4-3 decision finishing fifth in the conference. New Mexico went on to win the tournament and got the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
The BYU men's tennis team may not have finished in the top 25, but it certainly turned heads in the national arena with tough play against some of the nations top teams. Despite losing the leadership from Eric Nyman, Richard Dasek and Alonzo Medina, BYU will return seven players for the 2004-2005 campaign including Jose Lechuga, Chip Hand, Tim Bradshaw, Dominik Kaufhold, Ivan Kokurin, Ian Fillmore and Nima Roshan.