Men's Tennis Season in Review

May 30, 2006

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The California Golden Bears men's tennis team (16-7, 5-1 Pac-10) wrapped up its season with a 4-0 loss in the second round of the NCAA Championship to Stanford. Senior Conor Niland advanced to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Singles Championship before falling and teamed with junior Tyler Browne in doubles. But Niland and Browne lost in the first round of the NCAA Doubles Championship.

As a team the Bears finished the season ranked No. 21 in the Fila Collegiate Tennis Rankings, released Friday, May 26, by the ITA. To date senior Conor Niland and junior Tyler Browne are the only Bears ranked in the individual poll. Niland is No. 6 and Browne is No. 89. In doubles Niland and Browne rank tied for No. 30.

Senior Conor Niland earned Pac-10 Player of the Year honors and was named to the first team. Junior Tyler Browne was second team all-conference. Three Bears earned Pac-10 All-Academic honors. Junior John Pettit garnered first team honors, while junior Daniel Sebescen and senior Dean Wallace were honored on the second team.

Senior Conor Niland not only earned Pac-10 Player of the Year honors and was named to the first team, but he also was awarded the Farnsworth/ITA Senior Player of the Year for the West region by the ITA.

Senior Conor Niland made a splash in the NCAA Singles Championships, advancing to the quarterfinals for the first time in four years as a Golden Bear. The last Bear to do so was John Paul Fruttero in 2002. In the first round, Niland defeated Notre Dame's Stephen Bass. Sixth-seeded Niland defeated Bass in the round of 64 in two sets, 6-1, 6-3. Niland faced Rylan Rizza of Virginia in the second round. Niland fell in the first set 7-5 to Rizza, but he bounced back to easily slip past Rizza in the final two sets, 6-2, 6-3. Niland moved on to play Texas' Callum Beals in the round of 16, winning in straight sets, 6-0, 6-2. In the quarterfinal match Niland faced first-seeded Benjamin Kohlloeffel of UCLA. Niland could not slip past Kohlloeffel for the third time this season as he played a close first set, but Kohlloeffel secured the win, 6-4. In the second and decisive set, Kohlloeffel took an early led and never looked back, winning the match, 6-2, and advancing to become the eventual NCAA Singles Champion.

Senior Conor Niland made a steady rise to the top of the collegiate tennis world in his final season with the Bears. Niland, who took the fall semester off to move his world ranking to 450, started the spring semester ranked 41st but slowly worked his way up to a sixth-ranking. The movement up the rankings was large in part to his winning streak of 19 matches, longest in the nation this season. In his final dual match then-fourth-ranked Niland sufferered his first dual-match loss to Washington's Alex Slovic in two sets, 7-5, 6-1. Niland bounced back, advancing to the semifinals of the Pac-10 tournament. But he lost to the eventual Pac-10 singles champion, Stanford's Matt Bruch. Niland picked up his biggest win over UCLA's top-ranked Benjamin Kohlloeffel in two sets, 6-4, 6-3, on April 8. This was the second time this season he had recorded an upset over Kohlloeffel. The then-No. 41Niland defeated then-No. 3 Kohlloeffel in two sets, 6-3, 6-2, on Feb. 2, in Berkeley. On March 26, Niland continued his streak, defeating No. 4 Scott Doerner of Pepperdine in two sets, 6-4, 6-3. On Feb. 26, Niland defeated then-fourth-ranked Lars Poerschke of Baylor, 5-7, 6-3, 6-3. In addition he defeated 23 of his opponents this season in straight sets. Niland was named men's tennis Pac-10 Player of the Week three times this season.

Senior Conor Niland's streak of 19 straight matches victorious this year is not new to the Limerick, Ireland, native. During his last two years in high school at Millfied School in Somerset, England, Niland remained unbeaten as he led his high school to the British National School Titles.

Senior Conor Niland completed an unbelievable career last week at the NCAA Singles Championships. Niland came to Cal with an impressive resume, competing on the ATP circuit for a year after high school and was a participant on the Irish Davis Cup team, European Cup team and numerous junior Irish Cups. During his freshman season, Niland, ranked 84th, compiled a 7-3 record on the third court and went undefeated (3-0) on the second court. His biggest win in his initial campaign came over UCLA's No. 22 Marcin Matkowski, 7-6, 2-6, 7-5. During his sophomore campaign, Niland rose to the elite of the collegiate tennis rankings with his final 36th national ranking. That season he garnered first team All-Pac-10 honors. In the dual season that year, Niland coasted to one of the better records in the conference at 19-6, winning seven matches on court one and 11 matches on court two. Niland entered his junior fall season with a 25th-national ranking. After posting a 12-4 record, including a 10-match winning streak, he was sidetracked with a wrist injury that prolonged his career at Cal. In his true junior season, last year, Niland finished the season with a national ranking of 12th and recorded wins in both of the Bears first and second rounds of the NCAA Championships. He posted major upsets over No. 5 Patrick Ysern of San Diego and No. 9 UCLA's Luben Pampoulov last year. Niland ended his famed career at Cal with a stunning 26-3 record during his senior season. He recorded major wins over NCAA Singles Champion Benjamin Kohlloeffel of UCLA, Pepperdine's Scott Doener and Baylor's Lars Poerschke. Niland finished his career at Cal 106-43 in singles play.

On the singles court, No. 89 junior Tyler Browne went 9-1 at home and 23-12 overall. On the second court this season, Browne collected an impressive 13-6 record. One of his biggest victories this season at home was a win over then-15th-ranked and Pac-10 singles champion Matt Bruch of Stanford in the last home dual match of the season. Browne defeated Bruch in three sets, 6-7, 7-6, 6-1. Browne injured his hip flexor in the final dual match against Washington and was unable to play in the Pac-10 Championships.

Senior Conor Niland and junior Tyler Browne earned an at-large bid into the NCAA Doubles Championship. The two lost to Miami's Luigi D'Agord and Daniel Vallverdu, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2, in the first round. The pair finished the season with a 7-6 overall record. In the first round of the NCAA Championships, Niland and Browne collected a victory over UCSB's Nick Brotman and Bijan Hejazi. The duo recorded an upset victory over the then-sixth-ranked Baylor duo of Matija Zgaga and Jon Reckewey, 8-4, en route to a No. 42 ranking by the ITA. Niland and Browne are now ranked 30th. The pair suffered its first lost this season to Arizona's Claudio Christen and Jeff Groslimond, 8-5, on March 10. Browne was injured in the final dual match against Washington and was unable to play with Niland in the Pac-10 Championships.

During the dual season the Golden Bears managed seven clean sweeps over their opponents for the first time since the 2003 dual season. In 2003, Cal advanced to the regional quarterfinals, but lost to Stanford, 4-0, in Athens, Ga. Their last sweep came against UCSB in the first round of the NCAA tournament, as the Bears routed the Gauchos, 4-0 to advance to the second round.

Wrapping up his career at Cal, senior Lennart Maack closed out his dual matches with a 10-3 record in the third position. During the month of April, the Langwedel, Germany, native was 6-2 and hosted a six-match winning streak during that time. One of his wins came in April, when he upset UCLA's 78th-ranked Mathieu Dehain, 7-6 (10), 6-1 in Los Angeles. Maack wrapped up his two-year career at Cal with a 32-25 record.

Senior Dean Wallace finished this season 8-3 in the sixth position. Wallace went on a tear through the invite singles bracket of the Pac-10 Championships, posting wins against Stanford's Chris Rassmussen, USC's Whit Livingston and Washington's David Chu. Wallace lost in the semifinals to Stanford's Blake Muller, 7-6, 6-3. Wallace went undefeated during the Arizona schools homestand. Wallace defeated Arizona State's Ryan Waits, 6-1, 6-3 and Arizona's Peter Zimmer, 6-4, 6-4. Wallace ends his career at Cal with a 41-35 record.

In his junior season Daniel Sebescen competed in the fourth position, posting a 10-6 record. The Yugoslavia native went on a five-match winning streak after his loss to Baylor's Will Ward, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, notching several match clinching victories in the dual season.

Junior John Pettit made good noise with partner junior Daniel Sebescen in doubles. The Monterey, Calif., native, and Sebescen a 6-5 record, including a five-game winning streak. Pettit also played singles notching a 3-2 record on the sixth court.

Sophomore Ken Nakahara posted a 13-9 record during the dual season this year. The Miyazaki, Japan, native played primarily in the fifth position, notching an 8-7 record. During the month of March, Nakahara boasted a five-match winning streak.

Freshman Eoin Heavey only got to showcase his talent in nine dual matches before his season was cut short by a foot fracture. In the quick time, Heavy posted a 6-3 dual record and 18-6 overall. Heavey teamed with senior Conor Niland in doubles, but the Irish pair only played in a couple of matches together. During the fall season, Heavey notched a 9-1 record in singles, posting eight straight wins.

On the 2005-06 men's tennis roster, the Bears host seven athletes from a different country other than the United States. Two are from Ireland, senior Conor Niland and freshman Eoin Heavey. Seniors Dean Wallace hails from Manila, the Philippines, and Lennart Maack is from Germany. Junior Daniel Sebescen is from Yugoslavia. Sophomore Ken Nakahara hails from Japan. Sophomore Vaclav Burger is from Czech Republic.

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. In 1997 and 2001 he was named the Pac-10 Coach of the Year. He received his first coaching award in 1994 when he was named Wilson/ITA Regional Coach of the Year. Wright and the Bears have been a fixture in the NCAA Tournament almost every year since. The ninth coach in the 110-year history of Cal tennis, Wright has compiled a 149-110 (.576) career record during his tenure in Berkeley. Wright currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Intercollegiate Tennis Association as well as the Youth Tennis Advantage and the Arthur Ashe Tennis Foundation of the Bay Area. He established the Bear Trax program at Cal, which brings inner-city children from Oakland to Berkeley for academic tutoring with Cal students and tennis tutoring with the Cal men's and women's teams. Wright is also currently the chairman of the NCAA men's tennis committee. He is assisted by former Cal standout Patrick Briaud, who enters his first season.

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