Jan. 11, 2007
Santa Clara, Calif. - The Santa Clara men's tennis team opens its spring season this weekend in San Diego at the Aztec Invitational. The Broncos will face San Diego State and Arizona State at the event, which will not count on the team's record although the matches will count towards the players' rankings. SCU travels to San Diego Friday and will play matches Friday, Saturday and Sunday on the campus of San Diego State. The team is looking to get off to a good start in the spring after a solid fall season. The team's first dual meets take place on Saturday, Jan. 20 when the Broncos face UC Davis and UC Santa Cruz at the Degheri Tennis Center. Matches start that day at 9:30 a.m. PT.
Following an up and down 2005-06 season, Santa Clara men's tennis returns with one of its deepest and most balanced squads in recent memory. Last year the Broncos were a young team with two juniors, four sophomores, four freshmen and no seniors at the helm. In 2007, however, Santa Clara returns all but one starter and has added four newcomers who will have a significant impact on the program's immediate future. The deep and versatile squad will allow Santa Clara to compete with the country's best from the top to the bottom of the lineup.
The Broncos will once again be led by George Husack, who enters his fifth season on the Mission Campus after leading the team to back-to-back 14-win seasons. Husack's enthusiasm for the sport, tennis knowledge and his ability to fire up the team has made the Broncos one of the most competitive teams in the West Coast Conference and in the nation. Husack will also have an experienced staff with him as Brian Eagle and Nick Fustar both return for a second season as assistant coaches at Santa Clara. Eagle and Fustar both competed on the ATP Tour after very successful college careers at California and Fresno State respectively.
"I am blessed to have two outstanding coaches in Brian and Nick," said Husack. "They have tremendous knowledge and understanding of the game after garnering success at a very high level of tennis in college and the professional scene."
The team will count on the experience of its upperclassmen this spring. Jan Macek returns for his final season at SCU after capturing All-WCC First Team honors in singles and honorable mention recognition in doubles in 2006. Macek was a solid fixture at the No. 1 singles position last year and has his sights set on furthering the Broncos' accomplishments in the 2007 campaign.
"Jan was such an inspirational leader for us last year and his impact on our team was invaluable," Husack said. "The team is elated with his decision to return for his final season of college competition and I look forward to seeing him enjoy the ride."
Macek's doubles partner, Bobby Rasmussen, is the second member of the senior class. In 2006, he captured 13 victories despite being sidelined for six weeks with an injury. A solid doubles player, Rasmussen and Macek teamed up to win several key doubles matches and earned All-WCC honorable mention accolades.
In his fourth season, redshirt junior Kevin McQuaid made a triumphant return to the team after missing all of 2004-05 due to injury. He incorporated an attacking style of play to complement his strong groundstrokes and also served as a motivational leader for the team.
"Kevin made some great strides as a student-athlete last season especially having been away from competition for so long," commented Husack. "He learned to make technical and strategic changes in order to compete in the top half of the lineup. He also greatly contributed to our team's spirit with his energy."
McQuaid's impact was also evident in doubles as he and partner Blane Shields garnered All-WCC Second Team honors. Beginning the year at the No. 2 slot, the duo moved into the top position midway through the season and recorded 20 dual match victories--a new Santa Clara single season record. The pair returns this year to an impressive doubles lineup and looks to eclipse their achievements of a year ago.
Shields, a gifted athlete and competitor, should compete for a spot in the singles lineup in addition to continuing to make his contributions in doubles. He recorded an outstanding fall season in singles, posting a 7-2 record that included wins over regional opponents from California, Oregon and Cal Poly.
Rounding out the junior class is transfer Robert Gallman. After a successful junior career, Gallman spent the past two seasons at Texas Christian University. A strong all-around player, Gallman is looking to establish himself in one of the top spots in the Bronco lineup. A hernia injury kept him from competing in the fall season, but the Dallas, Texas resident should have a big impact this spring.
"Robert has a long resume of tennis experience," said Husack. "He loves the sport and has made many sacrifices in order to put himself in a position to develop into a fine college tennis player. I look forward to watching his progress and witnessing his impact on the program."
As freshmen last season, Brian Brogan and Tommy Hicks proved that they were more than ready for the college game. Both players competed at every spot from No. 2 to No. 6 in the lineup and combined to clinch seven of the team's 14 wins last year. Brogan won 16 matches with seven of those coming in the No. 2 spot in the lineup, while Hicks made history with 24 singles victories. Hicks' victory total places him fourth all-time for single season wins in school history. The pair expects even more in 2007 following an excellent fall season that saw both players score impressive wins against top competition.
"We learned a lot last year about how opportunities can come and go, which is typical with a young and inexperienced team. This season we have developed the ability to create these opportunities for ourselves and convert them into rewarding outcomes."
Kenzo Hirakawa-Wong, the final member of the sophomore class, demonstrated this fall that he made big strides in the off season. He spent many hours working on and implementing an aggressive game style that ultimately paid dividends. His 8-3 singles record during fall tournament play proved that he too will look for a starting nod in the singles lineup.
For the second straight year, Husack brought in a freshman class that figures to do more than just compete. In his first tournament as a Bronco, freshman Jay Wong captured a singles title, winning the Bronco Classic `B' flight. Overall, he led the team with 10 victories during fall competition with impressive wins over opponents from Stanford, Cal and Washington. A highly successful player in the USTA Boys 18s and 16s national divisions, Wong will find himself making an immediate contribution to the Bronco lineup this season.
Fellow freshman Steven Benvenuto comes off a junior tennis career that saw him reach personal best accomplishments in the USTA Boys 18s national standings. The two-time CCS high school singles champion from Aragon High School captured a national junior tournament title prior to his arrival on campus with his punishing groundstrokes and big serve. Hampered by injury in the fall, Benvenuto looks to bounce back with a solid spring campaign and solidify a spot in the Broncos' highly competitive lineup.
Joe Galbraith comes to Santa Clara from Bellarmine Prep in Tacoma, Wash. Rated among the top players in the Pacific Northwest as a junior competitor, Galbraith brings a passionate and determined spirit to the Bronco squad. He will add even more depth to the roster and continue to develop into a solid college player. Accompanying Galbraith's entry to the Bronco program is a strong family tennis tradition, as his father John was a No. 1 player at Santa Clara and finished second in the 1975 WCC Championships. Pat Galbraith, Joe's uncle, was an NCAA doubles champion at UCLA before reaching a Wimbledon doubles final and capturing two US Open mixed doubles titles.
Steady improvement in doubles has been a primary goal for the Broncos over the past several years. In fact, when capturing the all-important doubles point in competition, Santa Clara has won more than 95 percent of its dual matches.
"Getting off to a good start in doubles is crucial for us," commented Husack. "We have spent countless hours on serve returns, first volleys and net movement which we hope will pay off in our results. Success in doubles can definitely set the tone for a dual match." The doubles lineup should be stronger than ever this season. The Broncos return a pair of all-conference tandems from a year ago in McQuaid and Shields and Macek and Rasmussen. The teams proved to be nearly unbeatable in WCC play, owning an impressive 11-3 record. Two additional combinations in newcomer Gallman and sophomore Brogan, as well as the freshmen tandem of Benvenuto and Wong will provide more options for the Broncos. Gallman has made a name for himself in doubles during his collegiate career and Brogan should thrive with a set partner after playing with six different teammates a year ago. Hirakawa-Wong will also be considered for a shot in the lineup as his aggressive play and doubles success in the fall proved noteworthy.
Santa Clara will again face a demanding schedule as more than two-thirds of their 28 dual matches will come against nationally-ranked competition. A sampling of these contests include Stanford, California, Arizona and Arizona State from the Pac-10, as well as defending national champion and WCC foe, Pepperdine. The Broncos will also host 16 home matches, including duals against the champions of three different conferences in Boise State (WAC), UC Santa Barbara (Big West) and Montana State (Big Sky). Oregon, Brigham Young, Harvard and Cornell will also visit the friendly confines of the Degheri Tennis Center in addition to a slew of tough opponents. The season culminates at the WCC Championships in April at the University of San Diego. The winner will receive an automatic berth to the NCAA championships in May.
The Broncos have the depth, talent and experience to enjoy a highly successful campaign in 2007. Playing aggressive and consistent tennis while avoiding the injury bug will determine whether the potential will turn into results this year.
"We learned a lot last year about how opportunities can come and go, which is typical with a young and inexperienced team," said Husack. "This season we have developed the ability to create these opportunities for ourselves and convert them into rewarding outcomes."