The Cougars finished the 2008-09 season ranked No. 64 in the country. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
The 2008-2009 tennis season opened with high expectations for lone upperclassman Cassidy Mears, a core of returning sophomores and three talented freshmen. The veteran players combined with the ambitious newcomers to finish the season ranked as the No. 64 team in the nation.
The team showed promise to begin the fall season with sophomore Thomas Shubert capturing the singles title at the Utah Fall Tennis Classic. Shubert and teammate A.J. Young won the doubles title at the same tournament.
As fall play continued, Shubert remained a solid player for the Cougars, earning a spot in the Round of 32 at the Mountain Region Championships in Las Vegas. Evan Urbina and freshman Georgy Batrakov also competed in the Round of 32, showcasing the talent of the young Cougar team.
Doubles play emerged as a strength for BYU during the fall with pairs advancing far into the draw at two key tournaments. Sophomores Urbina and Young teamed up to join Shubert and Mears in the Round of 16 at the regional competition. Urbina and Young also played impressive tennis at the So Cal Intercollegiate Tennis Championship, advancing to the quarterfinal round. Shubert and Batrakov upset the No. 2 seed at the same tournament to secure a place in the semifinals.
Urbina showed he was an asset to the Cougars as he swept through the singles draw at the Utah Intercollegiate Tournament, earning the title with wins over top players from the University of Utah and Weber State. The sophomore kept the momentum in the spring, playing mostly at the Nos. 1 and 2 positions. He compiled a 16-11 singles record with decisive wins throughout the season. Other conference coaches noticed Urbina’s performance and honored him with a placement to the All-Mountain West Conference singles team.
Leading the Cougars on and off the court was captain Mears who ended the season with a 26-8 overall singles record. With his finish the junior cracked his way into the BYU record books, earning a top-10 ranking in both the single season wins and winning percentage categories.
Mears and Urbina also led the team in doubles wins with a 9-2 record mostly at the No. 3 position. The duo began its partnership defeating the No. 64 pair in the country from Southern Miss. Mears and Urbina finished the season ranked No. 11 in the Mountain Region.
Pairs play proved to be a crucial part of the Cougar tennis program in the spring. The team was a perfect 11-0 when winning the doubles point. BYU also showed just how sweet it was to play at home, going undefeated in eight matches, including a 4-3 upset over No. 48 Denver.
The starting singles lineup included two freshmen-Batrakov and Warias. German-born Warias spent the season in spots one through three. He recorded a crucial win over his UC Irvine opponent to clinch the victory for the Cougars in a three-set battle. Batrakov earned MWC honors as the Player of the Week to start the season after going a perfect 4-0 in singles and doubles against Utah State and Weber State.
Despite the strength of BYU’s schedule, the team owned a 15-12 overall record. The Cougars played 15 ranked teams including No. 4 UCLA and No. 7 Stanford. BYU also notched a spot as high as No. 46 in the nation, the best ranking for the men’s team in the last 10 years.
Conference play challenged the Cougars with five of six teams ranked in the top 65. BYU opened play against Mountain West opponents with one win and two losses. The team reversed the results the next week, going 2-1. One of those victories came in an upset over No. 38 San Diego State.
Hopes were high as the Cougars headed to the conference tournament in New Mexico. The first test would be defeating SDSU for the second time in two weeks. But the Aztecs overpowered BYU 4-0, forcing a first round exit and ending the season.
In spite of disappointing conference results, the team had plenty to be proud of with solid finishes in regional and national rankings. The Cougars notched the fourth spot in the Mountain Region as a team. In singles play, Shubert came in at No. 17 and Urbina claimed the No. 23 position.
With all six members of the starting lineup returning and the addition of two strong recruits, BYU will look to continue improving play, building the program and competing with tough opponents across the country next season.