Cougars To Host NCAA Regional

After surprising the Mountain West Conference in April by winning the conference tournament as the No. 4 seed, the BYU men's tennis team is looking to surprise a few more people this weekend as they host the first and second round of the NCAA Tournament on May 11 and 12 at the BYU Outdoor Tennis Courts.

BYU, 14-9 overall, 5-3 in the conference, will face No. 16 Cal-Berkeley on Friday at 2 p.m. In the first match, No. 20 Fresno State will take on No. 47 Wake Forest at 10 a.m. The winners will meet on Saturday at 2 p.m.

"This will be a chance to see the best tennis to be played in the state this year," said BYU coach Jim Osborne. "These guys are the future pro stars. It's fun to see them playing in a team format, something you can't see in the pros."

As the only MWC team that made the 64-team tournament, the Cougars won their first conference championship since 1988, snubbing out higher-ranked San Diego State and New Mexico from an NCAA appearance.

As the 67th-ranked team in the country, the Cougars made the NCAA tournament by virtue of the automatic bid that comes from winning the conference tournament. But, as one of the lower seeds in the tournament, they didn't expect to be hosting the first round, a gift which came because none of the other three schools in their bracket were able to host.

"It's a great advantage," said Osborne. "It's like BYU winning the volleyball national championship -- the more noise, the better. If our fans come out and make a lot of noise, it will help give us the home-court advantage."

The Cougars are led by Gert Vilms and Carlos "Panda" Lozano. The two have traded spots at the No. 1 position all year, hold a 25-6 record in doubles and are ranked No. 32 in the country.

Both Vilms and Lozano have already individually qualified for NCAA's to be held in Athens, Georgia. They were the automatic qualifiers from Region VII and will be competing this weekend for their seeding in Athens. So far this year, the two have defeated the current No. 8 and No. 11 ranked teams in the nation.

To advance to the round of 16, the Cougars will have to beat two higher-ranked teams, starting with 14th-seed Cal-Berkeley.

Cal-Berkeley has the 17th-ranked player in the nation in John Paul Fruttero. Balazs Veress is ranked No. 65. In doubles, Cal-Berkeley's Adrian Barnes and Scott Kintz are ranked No. 36 in the nation.

"The doubles will be really exciting, the fans will see some unbelievable doubles," said Osborne. "Our goal is, like at the MWC Tournament, to win the doubles point, let them start thinking about the altitude and start to get a little nervous."

Fresno State boasts the 3rd-ranked player in the nation, Peter Luczak. In doubles, Luczak also teams with David Mullins to form the 5th-ranked doubles team. Sean Cooper and Nick Fustar are ranked No. 35 in doubles.

The Bulldogs are 6-1 against the Cougars, winning the last five in a row. Fresno State defeated the Cougars, 5-1 last year at Fresno.

Wake Forest is heading to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three seasons, and just the second time in school history.

The Demon Deacons are led by senior Raul Munoz (18-20 overall, 6-14 dual), and sophomores Mike Murray (18-21, 12-10) and Trent Brandon (27-10, 16-6).

The ticket prices for the Regional Matches will be $3 for students and $5 for general admission.