Mark Tichenor's Lady Broncos came within an eyelash of winning the Western Athletic Conference Tennis Championship this year. In fact the folks watching the WAC tournament at Appleton Tennis Center in Boise thought the trophy was in the case.
Four-time defending WAC champion, #27 Fresno State, and #64 Boise State, making its first-ever trip to the WAC Tournament, reached the finals.
The Broncos came to play. The doubles point looked to be a shoo-in for Boise State. The teams were even at 1-1. Megan Biorkman and Hadley MacFarlane had Fresno's team, ranked #4 in the nation, right where they wanted them. They were leading 7-4. Two more game points and the Lady Broncs would move on to the singles with a one-point lead. For some reason the sky fell in. Fresno won the next five points and the doubles point went to Fresno 9-7.
That wasn't the end of Boise State. Tichenor's Broncos battled back in the singles matches pulling even at 3-3. One match remained. Boise State freshman Tatiana "Tat" Ganzha, winner of 33 matches, was tied at a set apiece and clearly had the momentum. Then it happened. Tat injured her ankle, badly, and lost. Fresno won 4-3 and advanced to the Big Dance.
Coach Tichenor had this to say about the match.
"Losing obviously hurts. The more you put into something, the more it is going to hurt. But look at everything we accomplished this year. Last year's seniors really got this program going and this year's seniors really elevated this team. We want to look at the positives and build towards next season. It will be a long 365 days, but we want to be in this exact position next year, and we will be working even harder to make sure that it happens. We came up a little bit short, but we kicked down the door on our way to the championship match. We will build on this for next year."
That is exactly what is happening. The Lady Broncos are stepping up to the next level. Three seniors are gone. But Coach Tichenor has already found big time players to replace two of them.
Polina Kokoulina is a junior transfer from Mississippi State. Polina was a top ten junior player in Russia, about as big as it gets at the college recruiting level. She played #1 singles and doubles at Mississippi State, a top twenty-five team from the powerful Southeastern Conference. She brings instant top-level college and big match experience to the Broncos line up.
Bianca Jochinsen, a freshman from Germany, also comes to Boise State. Bianca was recommended by former Bronco Nadja Woschek, who played in the top three as a Bronco. Nadja told Coach Tichenor, "Get Bianca. She is a whole level beyond me."
Bianca was ranked in the top 125 in women's singles when playing as a junior in Germany. This is another key pickup for Boise State.
Coach Tich was excited about his two new girls. He said, "Both girls fit perfectly into our team concept. They are excellent
players, but more importantly they bring great personalities, hard work and dedication. We will look to bring in one more player in
A month after the WAC tournament Mark Tichenor was named Women's ITA Central Region Coach of the Year. He has nine other "Coach of the Year" awards to go with the WAC award. His teams have won ten conference championships, four at Northern Arizona University of the Big Sky, six from Louisiana-Monroe of the Southland Conference, and one at Boise State in 2001, then of the Big West Conference, the year before the Broncos joined the WAC.
Tichenor came to Boise State in 1999 from Big Sky's Northern Arizona where he coached both the men and women to four Big Sky championships, the women three times and men once. Prior to that, he coached his alma mater, Louisiana-Monroe, where his men's team won six conference championships.
Is Bronco tennis on the threshold of greatness? Mark Tichenor, and Greg Patton combined have won twenty-five "Coach of the Year" awards and twenty-four conference championships.