Men's Tennis Outlook
Jan. 10, 2005
Stanford Men's Tennis 2005
As head coach John Whitlinger begins his first season at the helm of the Stanford men's tennis program, he realizes that a tall order awaits in filling the shoes of legendary Cardinal coach Dick Gould. Gould, whose name has become synonymous with Stanford tennis, led the Stanford tennis team to 17 national championships during his 38 seasons on The Farm, and will remain affiliated with the program as the Director of Tennis. Whitlinger, a former NCAA singles champion who played on Gould's first two national championship team in 1973 and 1974, has served as the program's associate head coach for 18 seasons and has been a part of nine national championships for the Stanford tennis program.
'Nobody can replace coach Gould,' said Whitlinger. 'But I plan on doing my best to help keep the legacy that he created here at Stanford alive. Having played and coached for him, I realize what it takes to win and I know what it takes to be a champion. I have big shoes to fill, so I want to keep this thing going at full speed. Dick left his position as head coach with the program better off than it was when he started, and I hope to do the same.'
Coach Whitlinger and the Cardinal will be looking to challenge for a national championship in 2005, with a team that features a mix of veteran experience and new talent. Returning are the reigning NCAA champion doubles tandem of junior KC Corkery and senior Sam Warburg, along with a number of players that gained valuable experience last spring. Included in the returning cast are senior Phil Sheng, junior Jon Wong, and a talented sophomore class that includes James Wan, Eric McKean, Chris Rasmussen, and Nico Martinez.
Stanford lost just two seniors from a team that advanced to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament last season, but Carter Morris and Joe Kao will be difficult to replace. 'Both players will be sorely missed,' stated Whitlinger. 'Joe's presence on the team is irreplaceable and Carter was one of our most talented players in both singles and doubles. Both players worked extremely hard and were great people to have on the squad.'
Stepping in to fill the void will be a talented group of players that will fill out a Cardinal lineup that was dominant at times last season. Warburg and Wan combined to post a 45-6 record in dual matches during the 2004 campaign, and Corkery posted an impressive 13-7 mark at the No. 2 singles position. Sheng, and Pade emerged as key contributors in the middle of the lineup, while Rasmussen and McKean earned valuable experience as freshmen.
'I'm very excited about this season,' stated Whitlinger. 'It will be a challenging year, but our guys are up to the task. Our returning players have worked extremely hard in the fall and our newcomers will continue to improve as they get more and more experience at the collegiate level.'The group of newcomers feature highly touted freshman Phil Kao, freshman Lee Chang, and sophomore David Ryan. The group, combined with a solid core of nine returning players gives the Cardinal a solid lineup entering the 2005 campaign.
Once again, Stanford has compiled an extremely challenging schedule that will test the Cardinal throughout the spring. Stanford opens the season with its first dual match against rival California in Berkeley on January 29, before returning home for five straight matches at Taube Tennis Center. The Cardinal will take on tough foes in San Diego, Fresno State, and Saint Mary's in non-conference matches, and host Arizona and Arizona State before heading to the National Team Indoor Championships in Chicago at the end of February. The February 8 match against Saint Mary's holds particular significance for coach Whitlinger, as his son is a senior on the Gaels team.
In addition to a Pac-10 schedule that includes matches against Cal, UCLA, USC, Oregon, and Washington, the second half of the Cardinal season will feature matches against some top non-conference competition against William & Mary, Santa Clara, and Pepperdine. Stanford will also take on the NCAA Champions of the past two years in Illinois and Baylor.
'What pops out at me from our schedule is how difficult our spring break is going to be,' said coach Whitlinger. 'We'll be on the road against Baylor, Washington, and Oregon and then play Illinois at home on March 29. It's a challenging schedule and our guys are up to that challenge. On the whole, it's one of the best schedules that we've ever had from top to bottom.'
Senior Sam Warburg was named as the Intercollegiate Tennis Association's 'Player to Watch' entering the 2004 season and he lived up to the moniker with an outstanding performance last year. In dual matches, Warburg posted a 22-3 record, including an 18-3 mark at the No. 1 singles position. The Sacramento, CA native became the ninth different Stanford player to be tabbed as the Pac-10 Player of the Year, and was named First Team All-Pac-10. Warburg entered the 2004 Fall season as the No. 2 ranked singles player in the nation by the ITA, and the senior advanced to the final of the Icy Hot/ITA All-American Championships and the semifinals of the National Indoor Championships.
'Sam is just a tremendous competitor that has gotten better every year that he's been here,' said Whitlinger. 'His strength is his ability to compete, and the fire that he demonstrates on the court. He had an outstanding season last year, and we expect more of the same from Sam this season.'
Junior KC Corkery solidified his place among the top players in Division I collegiate tennis last season. Following a freshman season in which he garnered several awards including the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year honor, Corkery posted a 14-11 dual match record in 2004 while playing at both the No. 1 and No. 2 singles spots and was ranked No. 65 in the final ITA rankings. Along with Warburg, the Manhattan Beach, CA native provides the Cardinal with one of the top 1-2 punches in the nation in singles. Corkery earned a No. 20 ITA preseason ranking and won the consolation final at the National Indoor Championships in the Fall.
'KC Corkery is as good as anybody on the court,' said coach Whitlinger. 'At the end of last season, he played very well and I see him building on that success. He is a very smart player and we're expecting great things from KC this season.'
Phil Sheng will be counted on to bolster the middle of the Cardinal lineup during his senior season. Sheng played at five different singles position last year, finding a home at the No. 3 spot late in the season and posting an 8-4 record in dual matches at that position. The Thousand Oaks, CA native had an overall dual match record of 11-12, and knocked off three ranked opponents over the course of the 2004 campaign.
'Phil Sheng is ready to become a major player in his senior year,' said coach Whitlinger. 'He's got a solid forehand with a big serve. He's worked very hard in the off season to improve his fitness and we're looking for him to have a breakout season.'
Last season's Pac-10 Co-Freshman of the Year, sophomore James Wan will continue to move up in the lineup and looks to build on his impressive rookie campaign. Wan led all Stanford players with 23 victories in dual matches last season, the sixth highest single-season wins total in program history. The Woodbury, NY native began last season at the No. 6 singles position and went undefeated at the No. 6, No. 5, and No. 4 spots before finally settling at the No. 3 position, where he went 6-3. Wan earned a No. 70 ITA preseason ranking, and is expected to provide the Cardinal with a strong presence in the middle of the lineup once again in 2005.
'James is not the biggest guy on the team,' said coach Whitlinger. 'But, his brain and his quickness is what sets him apart. He's a real fighter and a tough competitor on the court. His strengths are his ground strokes and the way he moves and thinks. We expect James to continue to improve and emerge as a team leader this season.'
Sophomore Chris Rasmussen earned a spot in the lineup late last season, and posted a 7-6 record in dual matches. The Moraga, CA native registered an 8-5 mark against Pac-10 competition and bolstered the No. 6 singles position late in the 2004 campaign. Rasmussen provides the Cardinal with depth and experience in the middle of the lineup and has shown the ability to compete against top-flight opposition.
'Chris Rasmussen is a talented player that can help our team tremendously in both singles and doubles competition,' said coach Whitlinger. 'He's a very talented player that is capable of playing high in the lineup.'
Also competing for a spot in the Cardinal lineup will be junior Jon Wong, and sophomores Eric McKean and Nico Martinez. Wong put together an impressive performance at the Bronco Classic in October, winning four straight singles matches and claiming the C-Flight title.
'I've known Jon for a long time, and he is one of the hardest workers on the team,' said coach Whitlinger. 'What he did at the Bronco Classic in the Fall was great and he'll continue to improve with more experience at the collegiate level.'
Sophomore Eric McKean earned valuable experience as a freshman in both singles and doubles play, earning a win at the No. 6 singles position against Hawaii as a freshman and teaming up with Chris Rasmussen to post a 5-2 record in doubles play. Rounding out the returning group is sophomore Nico Martinez who did not see action last season, but looks to contribute in 2005.
'The bottom of the lineup is unsettled and we'll have to see how it shakes out,' said coach Whitlinger. 'Eric McKean is a guy that is getting better every day and has improved greatly since his freshman season. Nico Martinez has an outstanding attitude and is a very intense competitor. They both will continue to improve with the more experience they get.'
Kao is a highly touted freshman that will be expected to make an immediate impact during his first season on The Farm. The San Jose, CA native has been the top rated junior player in northern California for the last two years and advanced to the semifinals of the 16 and under national championships in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 2002. Kao got to display some of his talent during this past Fall, as he registered his first collegiate win at the Bronco Classic in October and advanced to the third round of the Wilson/ITA Regional Championships.
'Phil Kao is a freshman with a lot of talent,' said coach Whitlinger. 'He has a great attitude on the court and he features a big forehand and a solid serve. Once he gets up to speed in collegiate tennis, he will be very competitive and should have an outstanding season.'
Freshman Lee Chang and sophomore David Ryan also join the Stanford squad for their first season this spring. Chang brings a large amount of youth experience with him to The Farm. The Alpharetta, GA native was a quarterfinalist at the Georgia State Championships and participated in the 16 and under National Championships in Kalamazoo, Michigan. David Ryan is the only left-hander on the Stanford squad and is expected to develop into a major contributor as he gains increased experience at the collegiate level.
'Lee Chang has an exceptional forehand and a solid serve,' said coach Whitlinger. 'He has shown a desire to learn the game and has worked extremely hard. David Ryan adds a new dimension to our squad in that he is left-handed. He strikes the ball well and may contribute early on as a doubles competitor. Both of these players have tremendous work ethics and have displayed a winning attitude.'
With the returning NCAA Champion doubles tandem of Sam Warburg and KC Corkery leading the way, the Cardinal will once again be one of the strongest teams in the nation in doubles competition. The duo earned a No. 1 ITA preseason doubles ranking and advanced to the final of the National Indoor Championships in October.
'We have the luxury of having the returning NCAA champions, and they are as good as anybody in collegiate tennis,' beamed coach Whitlinger. 'When they go out on the court, they are going to have a bull's eye on their backs because they are the reining champions, but they are both tough competitors and are up to the challenge. It is nice to know that they are capable of beating anyone in the country in a doubles match.'
While Corkery and Warburg forged an outstanding partnership in the NCAA Doubles Championship, each player is capable of partnering up with others to form strong doubles tandems. Warburg teamed with Carter Morris during last season's NCAA Tournament and won three straight matches, while Corkery paired up with Phil Sheng at the No. 2 doubles spot.
The remainder of the doubles group will be determined as preparations for the season progress. Last season, James Pade and James Wan formed a formidable tandem and posted a 12-7 record in dual matches, while the duo of Eric McKean and Chris Rasmussen showed some promise with a 5-2 overall mark. McKean paired up with Jon Wong in the Fall and posted three impressive victories and advanced to the quarterfinals at the ITA Regional Championships. James Wan and Phil Sheng teamed up at the Icy Hot/ITA All-American Championships and at the ITA Regional Championships, and the coaching staff expects Phil Kao to figure into the doubles equation at some point this season.
'We're trying all sorts of combinations right now,' stated Whitlinger. 'It's going to be somewhat of a jigsaw puzzle and we'll see how it all shakes out. Doubles will be a work in progress, but we're confident that we'll have a solid unit once these guys get some experience. The doubles point is very important because if you win it, you only have to take three singles matches as opposed to four to win the dual match.'