(Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
The BYU women???s tennis team saw great success during 2004-2005 season. The young Cougars dominated opponents, posting an incredible 22-3 regular season record, won their second straight MWC Championship and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament for the first time since Head Coach Craig Manning has been at the helm.
Along the way, the Cougars posted 8 wins over top 75 teams and 10 wins over major conference opponents. The girls also went undefeated in conference play, had four of its players honored as MWC Players of the Week, six named to the All-MWC team and Coach Manning was named MWC Coach of the Year for the second time in his career.
What makes this all the more remarkable is it was done with a roster dominated by underclassmen. Sophomore Lauren Jones played number one singles and was the flagship player of this year???s squad. She was named to the All-MWC team and MWC Player of the Week for her performance against UNLV. Jones finished the year ranked No. 103 in the country.
At number two singles junior and All-MWC team member Olga Boulytcheva did most of her damage. The Russian native compiled a 25-8 singles record and was the backbone of the squad. She was the first Cougar in the 2004-2005 season to be named MWC Player of the Week, an award she won for her performances against Kansas and Kansas State. Boulytcheva was also the hero of the MWC Tournament with a clutch win over UNLV in the Championship to give the Cougars the title. Boulytcheva was he highest individually ranked Cougar with a No. 94 national ranking.
Playing a majority of the season at number three singles, true freshman Anastasia Sourkova came out firing in her first year wearing the blue and white. The Russian native was named to the All-MWC team and a MWC Player of the Week. After the young freshman arrived she quickly climbed up the depth chart to the third singles slot and even saw playing time at one and two singles. Sourkova compiled a strong 19-5 singles record.
The fourth singles spot is where the fiercely competitive Sofia Holden called home. The sophomore was named to the All-MWC Team and essentially the MWC Tournament MVP for her all-out dominance during the two-day tournament. She was simply unstoppable in the tourney notching a perfect 5-0 record with 3 singles wins and 2 doubles wins. It was Holden who set up teammate Olga Boulytcheva's title-clinching win at the MWC Tournament Championship with a clutch win of her own, giving the Cougars the 3-2 overall lead. She also secured the winning point for BYU against San Diego State in the semifinals.
Another freshman, Jennifer Miccoli made very significant contributions in her first year. Playing a majority of the season at number five singles, the Italian compiled a hearty 12-3 singles record. Her season, however, was injury-plagued. Miccoli missed the fall season due to a back injury and was forced to sit out singles play in the MWC Championship and the NCAA Tournament.
Both Senior Rebecca Pike and newcomer Dolly Chang would exchange time at the six singles spot. Playing in her final conference championship, Pike would come up huge for BYU with a three set win to tie UNLV 2-2, setting up Holden and Boulytcheva???s wins. Then, a week later, the Aussie would post her final win in a two set winner during the first round of the NCAA Tournament, a fitting way for a tough competitor like Rebecca Pike to end a solid 4 year career. She would compile an overall 53-29 in singles and 48-12 in doubles at BYU
Dolly Chang started out her freshman year with a bang, cruising to seven straight wins and an early 8-4 singles record in the fall. She took control during the regular season with an overall 12-5 singles record and earned a spot with doubles teammate Lauren Jones on the All-MWC doubles team.
The Cougars came out swinging right from the get-go. They jumped ahead early with two solid home wins over Weber State and Washington State. But a day later the team suffered their only regular season loss on their home court to then No. 10 ranked Washington.
Motivated by the loss, BYU retaliated with five straight wins over several Mid-West schools including Kansas State, Kansas, Oklahoma and a tough Wisconsin team. Also in that mix was a win over a good Boise State team. The Cougars then dropped a close match to top ranked Clemson for their second loss of the season. But just as they did after their first loss of the season, BYU bounced back with five straight wins.
The streak included wins over South Carolina, Utah, a very good Norte Dame team, Oklahoma State and Portland. But it was the Norte Dame game that really solidified this team???s toughness and desire to win.
BYU entered Mountain West play with a squad seasoned a tough schedule and die-hard mentality. They got going early in conference play and never let up- demolishing Colorado State, Wyoming, Air Force, New Mexico, San Diego State and finally UNLV.
The Cougars were rewarded for their undefeated conference record with the No. 1 seed and a first round bye in the conference tournament. They cruised past Air Force in the second round and advanced to the final for the fifth time in six years with a win over home-crowd favorite San Diego State in the semi-final.
Things got a little hairy in the final as UNLV tied the lead at 1-1with a win on the 5 singles court. That gave the Rebels some momentum and they quickly pulled ahead with a win at number one singles. But the die-hard Cougar mentality kicked in and the girls scrapped their way back into the lead with huge wins from lone senior Rebecca Pike 6-2,2-6,6-3 and sophomore Sofia Holden 7-6,6-2.
That gave the Cougars a 3-2 lead with Anastasia Sourkova and Olga Boulytcheva in their third sets. Boulytcheva won her first set but dropped her second while Sourkova gave up a tough first set only to bounce back to win the second.
Both girls were up 5-3 in their third sets but the pesky UNLV Rebels wouldn???t go away, closing the lead to 5-4 on both courts. Boulytcheva eventually pulled out the set, and with it the Mountain West Conference title.
With the third MWC Championship in five years locked up, the team returned home to host the first rounds of the NCAA tournament. They breezed past Sacramento State to advance to the second round for the first time under head coach Craig Manning???s tenure. The win was short-lived, however, as the season came to a screeching halt when the girls in blue and white succumed to No. 15 ranked Baylor 4-1.
The 2004-2005 season was one for the record books for BYU Women???s Tennis. The experiences the young team had have helped prepare it for future success in 2006. The Cougars now take aim at the season that lies in front of them, working toward another conference championship and a berth in the NCAA tournament.