Bronco Tennis Team Jumps Into The Fire

Boise State opens the men's tennis season next week by hosting Oregon. Whether they use that match with the Ducks as a springboard to success the way the football team did may be another story. The Broncos will gain great experience the first week in any case, taking on nationally-ranked UCLA and Pepperdine.

We will find out very soon how good the 2010 Boise State men's tennis team is.  

You see, Coach Greg Patton's team starts the fall campaign with a bang, first opening the year off hosting Oregon next Thursday night at 6 in the Boise Racquet Club on North Cole Road.  Then, the Broncos go after the "big boys", Pepperdine on Sunday in Malibu and UCLA in Westwood.  

The latter two are some of the most respected tennis programs in the United States , year in and year out.  Boise State has only defeated UCLA once in its history and that year was when Patton's Broncos were ranked #2 in the nation.   

You can talk about being a contender, about being a Top 25 team, about having some nice wins, but if you beat UCLA, you have truly accomplished something.  The Bruins finished last season at being #5 and are #6 in the latest Intercollegiate Tennis Association Rankings.  They, like Boise State, are young, featuring just two seniors to go with six sophomores and four freshmen.  Haythem Abid was #57 in the nation last year in singles while Matt Brooklyn was #64, Michael Look #92 and Nick Meister #100.      

Pepperdine is no slouch either, finishing last season at #18. They are #15 this week in indoor action.  The Waves have been ranked in the Top 25 every season since 2001, reaching as high as #2 in 2006.  Pepperdine is reloading this spring—they are even younger than Boise State with four freshmen, one sophomore and one junior on their roster.  Oscar Altmann finished last season as the #36 singles player in the country.   

This is a young Bronco team—many of the stars of recent years (Thomas Schoeck, Luke Shields, Clancy Shields and Kean Feeder) are gone.  Well, not quite.  The first three—Schoeck and the two marvelous Shields brothers, are now with the program as paid assistants to Patton.  

That is a lot of tennis talent surrounding the young Boise State team.  If they don't grow from here, if they are not molded into being some of the best tennis players in the country, it won't be for lack of a mentor.  

Cristian Hodel played last season at #3 and #4 singles.  He was 22-15 but came up huge in the NCAA Tournament, knocking off Michael Thompson of Alabama to help Boise State reach the Sweet Sixteen.  "We call him "Whiplash" because he has a slingshot swing that has the veracity of a whip," Coach Patton said.  

Vicente Joli is a newcomer to Boise , having earned NAIA All-America honors for Fresno Pacific the last three seasons.  Joli was part of the NAIA National doubles champion duo in 2007 and was named NAIA National Player of the Year last year.   

James Meredith was crowned as the national #1 player in New Zealand in the 12 and under, 14 and under, 16 and under and 18 and under age groups.  Meredith played primarily at #3 singles and #1 doubles with Feeder last season as a freshman.  He defeated four nationally-ranked singles opponents and combined with Feeder to down three ranked doubles teams.   

Meredith shocked #12 Michael Shabaz of Virginia Tech last season for his biggest win.  Meredith was named 2009 Western Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year, the 2009 Mountain Region Player to Watch, was named All- WAC in both singles and doubles and was an NCAA national doubles qualifier with Feeder.  

Filipp Pogotskin is the next promising Bronco superstar.  He has been ranked as high as #22 in the nation in the 18 and under division and has beaten three world Top 20 players.  One of his favorite players to watch was Pete Sampras (another of Patton's pupils).  Pogotskin will be exciting to watch over the next four years.  

Nick Gourley is a redshirt junior from Eagle High School .  He has seen limited action to date but will be counted on this fall for leadership and to be a big factor for the Broncos.  

Jeff Mullen is an intriguing player.  He towers over the competition at 6-feet, eight-inches.  He was ranked in the top two in northern California and in the Top 100 nationally in doubles.     

Freddy Walsh was 7-5 in singles last season for Boise State and enters his sophomore campaign.   

Michael Gilliland redshirted last season and will need to show what he can do to earn a spot on the starting roster.  

Meredith will likely be the #1 singles player for Boise State .  After that, Joli, Hodel and Pogotskin figure into the equation in some order.  Joli and Meredith will play #1 doubles.  The players at #5 and #6 are the question that Patton and staff must solve.  Those are two of the key positions in winning collegiate tennis at an elite level.  Walsh, Gilliland, Gourley and Mullen all will be among those competing for spots this spring.  

This certainly isn't a cupcake schedule and if it weren't challenging to this young Bronco team, they wouldn't be at Boise State .  They appreciate what Patton represents and what he is calling them to achieve.   

They may be jumping into the fire immediately, but we will find out right away what these Broncos are made of.  Isn't that what we all want to know anyway?

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