Star Serves Up Unselfishness

April 29, 2005

by Matt Schwab
San Francisco Chronicle

Brian Brogan is more than just one of the country's top teenage tennis players, he's also a team player to the core. And that makes Los Gatos High coach Todd Dissly smile.

For Dissly knows, in a sport where individuality is often king, if a guy like Brogan puts the team first and acts as if he has something to prove in each match, it's the stuff from which notable programs are built.

So, not surprisingly, Brogan, a Los Gatos senior, has led the Wildcats to back-to-back Central Coast Section team titles and a USTA California Interscholastic Federation Northern California crown last season. This season, the Wildcats have set the bar even higher with a runner-up finish in a national tournament.

"When the team match is on the line, he digs in a little bit deeper," Dissly said of Brogan, who is ranked 30th nationally in the boys 18s division. "He really plays for the team, and that's kind of rare this day and age, but it's becoming kind of a staple of Los Gatos tennis."

Bound for Santa Clara University on a tennis scholarship, Brogan has a combination on the court of power, quickness, creativity and versatility. A former varsity soccer player and a three-time high school tennis All-American, Brogan is also a hammer at the net.

Brogan said he doesn't really pattern his game after one player, but does like the style of Roger Federer.

"I kind of just work hard," Brogan said. "You can't really expect to win if you don't work hard."

That hard work is what makes Brogan money in the tight matches, capable of lifting his level or varying his style against the best of opponents.

"He's tough to play, he's like a chameleon," Dissly said. "He's the No. 1 guy in terms of who you want out there if the match is on the line. He's always going to pull it out no matter what the score is."

Brogan--who suffered a three-set loss to Kevin Kaiser of Saratoga last Thursday when the Wildcats fell 4-3 in a Santa Clara Valley Athletic League DeAnza Division thriller--may be even better in doubles because of his net work. He was once ranked No. 1 in the country in 16s doubles.

But the Wildcats are far from a one-man gang. The team's depth and uncanny knack for delivering under pressure has lifted the program to new heights. Plus, the team is tightly bonded. Brogan said he and the Wildcats' No. 2 man, sophomore Stephen Stege, have been friends since Brogan was 5.

"We've all been growing up together, and we're all best friends, most of all the top guys on our team," Brogan said.

The players believe in one another and try not to let the group down, he said.

"The last couple of years -- they just believe in themselves so much it's tough to overcome -- I've seen them come back from so many deficits," Dissly said.

Brogan, whose private coach is John Ryan at Courtside Club, said his chief goal this spring is to win a CCS singles title. He advanced to the quarterfinals two years ago.

Even with its prowess in the CCS, Los Gatos still can sneak up on people at the highest levels. Earlier this season, the unseeded Wildcats notched a surprising runner-up finish at the Corona del Mar/National High School All- American Invitational in Newport Beach (Orange County). Los Gatos also topped a 72-team field at the Central California Tennis Championships in Fresno.

In Newport Beach, the Wildcats toppled Harvard-Westlake, the nation's top- ranked team, 5-4 in the second round before ultimately losing 5-4 to No. 2 seed Santa Barbara in the final. Los Gatos beat Woodbridge of Irvine in the semifinals.

Brogan's younger brother, Patrick, is a junior mainstay on the Wildcats' young squad, along with other stars such as two-time CCS doubles champ Chase Huebner, Jon Teel, Greg Thaler, Tim Switzer and James Lok, the Wildcats' only other senior.

Los Gatos' tennis graduates are also thriving. Will McAllister is competing at UC Davis, and Lee Gerston is the team captain at UC San Diego, Dissly said.

Of course, none of this is happening by chance. Dissly has built a program from the ground up in the past four years. He currently coaches a bunch of good-quality players in the Fisher Middle School program, among them seventh-graders Trevor Unger and Antonio Garcia.

Additionally, Dissly, who also heads the Los Gatos Recreation Department tennis program and the Los Gatos Tennis Academy, said the Los Gatos High girls varsity team, which competes in the fall, is also on the rise.

Still, his overall program emphasizes more than just rankings and victories.

"Our philosophy is not about winning at all costs," Dissly said, "It's about sportsmanship and life skills for on and off the court. We like to have a lot of fun. We teach modern tennis."

Brogan said he grew up playing a variety of sports -- basketball, soccer, baseball and swimming, but his natural tennis ability had him advancing so rapidly it became his top sport.

He said he picked Santa Clara University over USC, UCLA and UC Santa Barbara because he liked the Broncos' coach, plus SCU made him the best scholarship offer.

Brogan said his mom, Pat, also a tennis player, has worked with him on his game.

"Everything (in tennis) really came natural to me," he said. "I think that was more because I played all the other sports, and they just kind of went in with each other."

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