No. 12 Cal Opens Season at Sherwood Invite

Jan. 13, 2004

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WHAT'S ON TAP: The California men's tennis team commences its 2004 campaign this week as the squad travels to Sherwood Oaks, CA to compete at the Sherwood Country Club Invitational.

CLIMBING THE POLLS: Once again, head coach Peter Wright has turned Cal into a recognized national power. The Bears enter the season rated No. 12 in the country, despite losing seven players to graduation a year ago, including three All-Americans. The Bears' ranking exemplifies the amount of respect Coach Wright and his staff have earned around the country for developing young talent.

ONE NEW YEAR, FOUR NEW PLAYERS: The Bears return to the court on Friday with four new players on their 10-man roster. The oldest of the newcomers is junior Jacob Leivent, who sat out his first three years of college to concentrate on academics. Leivent was a pleasant surprise for Coach Wright, going 5-3 in the fall and advancing to the ITA Regional round of 16. Freshman Tyler Browne joined the Bears in September and has excelled, tallying five victories in three tournaments. Browne's biggest contributions have come in doubles, where paired with Dean Wallace, the two led the team with eight victories in the fall - advancing to the Bulldog Classic final and the quarterfinal of the ITA Regional. Andreas Petersen and John Pettit are the other two newcomers who will add depth and could pick up key victories for the Bears. Playing a tough fall schedule the two recorded important confidence-building victories in every tournament they competed in.

No. 10 NILAND CONTINUES HIS SUPERB PLAY: The fall tournament season was one of great success for the Golden Bears, especially for junior Conor Niland, who showed the nation why he entered the fall ranked No. 25 in the country. The native of Limerick, Ireland, posted a 12-4 record in the fall, winning 10 in a row at one stretch in mid-October. Niland won the ITA All-American Consolation Championship Oct. 12 over Pedro Rico of Pepperdine, (7-6,6-3). One week later he defeated All-American and conference rival, Alex Slovic of Washington, to take the ITA Fall Regional title. For his efforts, Niland enters the spring of 2004 ranked No. 10 in the nation.

COACHES CORNER: Considered one of the best teachers and tacticians in men's collegiate tennis, Peter Wright has developed a reputation for getting more out of his players than perhaps any coach in the country.Wright's coaching talent hasn't gone unnoticed. He has been named Pac-10 Coach of the Year in 2001 and 1997, and received his first coaching award in 1994, when he was named Wilson/ITA Regional Coach of the Year for guiding the Bears back to postseason play after Cal had missed the Big Dance the previous two seasons.

Wright and the Bears have been a fixture in the NCAA Tournament almost every year since. The ninth coach in the 111-year history of Cal tennis, Wright has compiled a 140-92 (.603) career record during his tenure in Berkeley. Over the past two seasons he has put together a pair of the most successful teams in Cal's recent history. Wright's 2003 team ended the season ranked fourth nationally, and boasted two All - Americans and three all - conference selections. Their 21-5 record last spring surpassed their 2002 mark of 19-7, which at the time was considered the school's all-time best squad since joining the Pac-10. In that season the Bears finished in second-place, which is California's best-ever showing in the competitive league. 2002 also marked the first time that Cal enjoyed a series sweep of UCLA since 1953 and the first time ever that the Bears beat Stanford, UCLA and USC in the same season.

LOOKING BACK TO 2003: The California men's tennis team advanced to its fourth consecutive NCAA postseason appearance and 37th overall in 2003. As the #4 seed in the tournament, Cal steam-rolled through the first two rounds at Regionals, defeating Sacramento State, 4-0, and Boise State, 4-1, to advance to the Sweet 16 for the 11th time in the program's history. The Bears defeated Ohio State, 4-1, in the Sweet 16, but ran into a red-hot Stanford squad in the quarterfinals and dropped a 4-0 decision to end their season.In one of the most competitive conferences in the country, the Pac-10, Cal finished with a 4-2 slate and a third place finish. Against Stanford and UCLA, the conference's top two finishers, the Bears split the season series, but lost both of the conference matches against the two rivals.

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