By Rico Chow '12,
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - This Spring, the Bronco men's tennis team demonstrated that last year's record-breaking season was not a product of luck but rather the signs of a legitimate top-50 program on the rise. Santa Clara posted another winning season in 2011, posting a 15-8 dual match record and finishing 4-3 in West Coast Conference play. The Broncos were one win away from advancing into the NCAA Tournament, finishing as runners-up at the 2011 WCC Championships.
SCU was terrific on its home courts, collecting a 9-1 record on the Mission Campus, which included victories over then-No. 46 ranked Idaho (6-1) and then-No.71 ranked Penn (6-1). In addition, the team enjoyed a six-match winning streak late in the year, beginning with a shutout of Gonzaga (7-0) Apr. 3 and ending with a rout of WCC rival and then-No. 67 ranked San Francisco (4-1) at the WCC Championships Apr. 22.
"If the team works hard over the summer we could have the best team ever at Santa Clara next year," said Bronco head men's tennis coach Derek Mills, who will be entering his fifth season next year.
The Broncos have come a long way in a relatively short time. After finishing the 2008-09 season 4-15, the team made vast improvements during the past two years. The Broncos had one of their best-ever seasons a year ago, ending the 2009-10 campaign with an 18-7 record overall and a 5-2 mark in the WCC. SCU was the runner-up at the 2010 WCC's and earned its highest-ever national ranking in March 2010 at No. 43.
This year's group, led by all-league honorees Kyle Dandan, Maxime Armengaud, John Lamble and Tom Pham, also established some new all-time school records. For the first time in program history, Santa Clara was nationally-ranked continuously throughout the season by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association. Starting with a preseason ranking of No. 54 in January, the Broncos would be ranked as high as No. 47 before finishing the year at No. 49.
Mills and the Broncos are already looking ahead to next season. The Broncos will have a great advantage, as every current member of the team plans to return. Their collective individual experiences and the team chemistry built over the past few seasons, coupled with the addition of new recruits, promises to offer the Broncos a foundation of confidence as they prep for 2012.