(Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
Returning only two players from its previous season, the 2007-2008 BYU men's tennis team is eager to begin the season and put its preparation to the test. Six freshmen join this year's team, and have already proven they have what it takes to play at the collegiate level.
"If you had talked with me at the end of [the Utah Fall Tennis Classic], I would have had a completely different outlook than at the end of the fall season," said BYU head coach Brad Pearce. "At the end of the season I was very encouraged by the progress of our players. I am very hopeful and positive about this upcoming season and excited about it."
As the lone senior on this year's team, Jonathan Sanchez earned MWC Player of the Week honors in 2007 for a 5-1 record over two days on the road in combined singles and doubles action. Sophomore Cassidy Mears played as high as number three in the BYU lineup and tallied a remarkable 14-9 doubles record with his partner.
Sanchez and Mears teamed up for doubles action during the fall season, posting a 9-2 record, including a finals appearance at the So Cal Intercollegiate Championships and a doubles title at the Utah Invitational. Pearce was impressed with the duo's performances and hopes this bodes well for what is to come this season.
"[Mears and Sanchez] had some big wins at the [So Cal Intercollegiate Championships], against some of the top teams in the country," he said. "I just want to see them get off to a good start so they have a high confidence level and keep working on continuous improvement."
The veterans weren't the only ones recording big wins during the fall season. At the So Cal Intercollegiate Championships, Evan Urbina upset UCLA's No. 2 seed in the tournament with a 6-4, 2-6, 6-1 win. Daniel Hwang advanced as the lone Cougar to the semifinals at the University of Utah Invitational, before losing a hard-fought, three-game match against the No. 2 seed in the tournament.
"Everyone is working hard and it's going to be interesting to see who works through the regular season and where everyone ends up in May," said Pearce. "There's still a lot of tennis ahead of these guys."
Looking forward to its upcoming schedule, BYU is slated to compete against some of the top tennis programs in the country, including No. 8 UCLA and No. 24 Boise State. The Cougars will open their season at home on Jan. 11 in a doubleheader against Utah State and Weber State.
"I'm thinking about Weber State," said Pearce. "It's our first match of the season. They're a good team this year. They've got some good foreign kids and some of their players had a really good fall and beat some of our guys."
Based on what was seen during the fall season, and how each player has improved, the Cougars are eager to start the season and compete at the national level.
"I think we've got some great talent and I think they've shown me that they're able to take instruction and coaching and apply it and improve dramatically in a short period of time," said Pearce.