A Q&A With MSU Tennis Coach Per Nilsson

Mississippi State men's tennis coach Per Nilsson talks one-on-one with Gene's Page about he and his players' All-SEC honors, including Nilsson being selected the SEC Coach of the Year, freshman Malte Stropp being selected the SEC Freshman of the Year, freshman Zach White making the All-SEC Freshman Team, and juniors Louis Cant, George Coupland and Artem Ilyushin being selected to the All-SEC Team.

I know you aren't big on personal honors for yourself, but still it must make you feel good to be selected as the SEC Coach of the Year.
"The one thing I like about it is that the other coaches were the ones who decided that. It feels good knowing that they recognize the work of (assistant coach) Matt (Hill) and myself. I really wish it was coaches of the year because Matt and I do everything together. And he's been great. But really it's about the guys."

The honor really means that your guys and the team are doing well.
"Someone told me (Saturday) to be proud of (the honor) because when you do well that's what you get and when you don't do well you get other stuff (laugh). But the guys have been incredible and really improved a lot. But we still have a long way to go. We aren't even close to being where we want to be and where we can be. That's the most exciting part."

What is the potential of this team?
"I think we can be number 1 in the country."

This year?
"This year we are running out of time, but we can contend with anyone in the country (right now).

"We were talking about the team the other day. We have three juniors, one sophomore and several freshmen. But when you look at our ages we are really young, probably the youngest team in the country because we have a bunch of 18 and 19-year-olds. So, there is still a lot of room for improvement."

And it's not just that you have all the players in the lineup coming back. It's the talent level of those players. Five of the six players in the lineup earned some sort of All-SEC honors. So, you have really, really good to great players coming back.
"We do have good players coming back. And that's what you hope for. You don't want it to be where you have one good year because you had a bunch of seniors. You want to be good and look at your roster and think they are young and they are going to be here awhile. That means we are bringing in the right players."

What does it mean to your program for you and so many of your players to receive All-SEC postseason honors?
"The awards are great but what we are doing is trying to create an excitement about Mississippi State. (MSU AD) Scott Stricklin talks about wanting to make it exciting here at Mississippi State. That's what makes it fun. People are talking about tennis because they see the new guys doing well. That creates a buzz about our program. Then, when we go out (recruiting), people are talking about Mississippi State. They think that Mississippi State is cool and that's where they want to go play."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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