SANTA CLARA, Calif. - After one of the most sucessful seasons in program history, the Santa Clara University men's tennis squad has finished as the country's No. 33-ranked team in the Intercollegiate Tennis Assosciation's (ITA) final rankings.
From the beginning of the fall season in October, through the NCAA tournament in May, the 2011-12 Broncos achieved unprecedented success. SCU garnered team-bests, all-time highs and personal accolades, and the year was capped by the team's first NCAA tournament birth.
Before the season even started, Santa Clara added a first in school history. Seniors Nicolas Vinel and Kyle Dandan became the highest Bronco doubles team to be in the opening ITA fall rankings. The two seniors started the fall as the No. 37-ranked doubles pairing. Although it was a great honor, the team's depth allowed Dandan and Vinel to play with other partners throughout the 2011-12 season.
Santa Clara competed in two tournaments during the fall, the ITA regional held in Seattle, Wash. and the Gael Classic in Moraga, Calif. All the Broncos who participated gained valuable experiences, which helped them in preparing for the spring season. The fall season was highlighted by two Broncos making the Round of 16 at the ITA Regional and Vinel making the semis at the Gael Classic.
Retrospectively, sophomore John Lamble's surge into the Round of 16 at the ITA Regional displayed why he would have such a successful 2011-12 campaign. Dandan also played his way into the Round of 16. At the Gael Classic, Vinel upset the No. 1 seed in the quarters on his way to a semifinal appearance.
Opening the spring, Santa Clara owned a No. 50 national ranking and after picking up two opening-week victories traveled to Palo Alto, Calif. for the ITA Kickoff Weekend event.
At the ITA Kickoff Weekend, held at Stanford on Jan. 27 and 28, Santa Clara got its first test against a ranked opponent. The Broncos showed their promise by beating then-No. 48 Boise State in a decisive 5-2 win.
After dropping two matches to Stanford and Fresno State, Santa Clara surged through its next opponents. From Feb. 10 through 24 Santa Clara was on a road-swing, including a two-match trip to Texas. In the Lonestar State, Santa Clara blasted SMU and picked up its second win against a ranked opponent by beating then-No. 44 TCU.
After returning home at the end of February, the Broncos dropped a close match to Arkansas. However, the following day, a win over Pacific started an eight-match winning streak, including topping then-No. 38 BYU in their West Coast Conference opener. The streak lifted Santa Clara to an all-time school best ranking by the ITA, jumping to No. 29 nationally.
Sitting at 15-3 and 2-0 in the WCC, Santa Clara began April against the highest-ranked opponent on its schedule, then-No. 7 Pepperdine. Ranked No. 31 at the time, the Broncos fell to the Waves, but recovered by blasting San Francisco to sit at 16-3 and 2-1 in conference play.
Santa Clara surged through its next matches and had an all-important bout with then-No. 19 San Diego. In an exciting match, Santa Clara bested its WCC foe 4-3 to add another marquee win.
During the final week of WCC play, the Broncos sat at No. 30 in the country and had the opportunity to pick up another program record. Santa Clara, at 19-4 overall, was two wins away from breaking the school record for victories in a season. With two WCC wins against Portland and Gonzaga in the final week, the Broncos surpassed the 20-win mark, establishing a new SCU win's record of 21.
The Broncos clinched a second-place finish in the WCC and were awarded the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament. In the semis, Santa Clara could not overcome the host Toreros of San Diego.
With a 21-5 regular season mark, the Broncos awaited word from the NCAA on its postseason fate. During the live selection show, the men's tennis squad and the coaches, along with a number of supporters, waited anxiously in the Leavey Center suite until their at-large bid was announced. For the first time ever, Santa Clara men's tennis would be playing in the NCAA tournament.
The first match of the NCAA's was no easy task; the Broncos' first opponent was No. 19 Texas, who would be making their 30th appearance in the tournament. In one of the most exciting tennis matches of the year, Santa Clara battled to win an all-important doubles point. Up 1-0, Santa Clara tabbed three more wins including a tie-breaking, comeback victory from the WCC Freshman of the Year, Ilya Osintsev, that ended the match. In their first ever appearance, Santa Clara had won its first ever NCAA Tournament match and did it in front of a large crowd of Bronco fans that made the short trip to Palo Alto.
Following the win over No. 19 Texas, Santa Clara fought valiantly against No. 11 Stanford but could not overcome the Cardinal, who was serving as a regional host.
In a year of firsts, Santa Clara achieved many, including the ultimate team honor, making the NCAA tournament.
PLAYER NOTES: SEASON IN REVIEW
In his final season as a Bronco, Dandan capped off a phenomenal career by picking up First Team All-WCC singles honors and a Honorable Mention in doubles. Santa Clara's No. 1 singles player was ranked as high as No. 78 by the ITA, the highest-ever individual ranking for a Santa Clara player. Dandan played as the Broncos No. 1 singles player all season and picked up huge wins for Santa Clara. The senior continually saw opponents' best players, playing nine ranked opponents during the 2011-12 season. One of his best wins was against Cal Poly's Andre Dome, who was ranked No. 20 at the time. On the season Dandan was 18-10 as a singles player. In doubles, Dandan appeared most frequently with junior Tom Pham as the No. 2 tandem. Dandan was also First Team All-WCC last year. He is the first player since Lars Nelson in 1999-2000 to be named All-WCC First Team in back-to-back seasons (only two players in school history). Dandan was Honorable Mention his sophomore year.
Vinel had another impressive season for the Broncos. As the No. 3 singles player, Vinel ended his Santa Clara career with a 20-11 record during the 2011-12 campaign. Vinel was instrumental in the Broncos' first win against a ranked opponent, Boise State, when he defeated Garrett Patton in straight sets. In doubles, Vinel worked with several Broncos on the No. 3 doubles team.
Muchynski was one of the Broncos most improved players in 2011-12. The Bay Area native amassed a 13-2 record during the months of March and April to help solidify the Broncos hold on second place in the WCC. Click here for a feature article written on Muchynski.
In limited action this season, Kamono was a key facet of the Broncos depth. Kamono garnered an Honorable Mention nod from the WCC on the All-Academic list. Kamono, a sophomore engineering major who sports a 3.841 grade point average, was a vital change-of-pace player for Santa Clara. During the spring, he posted a 4-1 singles record. His biggest win came against then-No. 57 UNLV when he spelled a sick Ilya Osinstev en route to a 7-0 Santa Clara victory. As a doubles player, Kamono partnered with three different teammates and accrued a 6-2 record during doubles play.
During his sophomore year, Lamble cemented himself as one of the Broncos' top players. Playing behind Dandan, Lamble was a mainstay as the No. 2 singles player. Lamble ended the season with a team-best 25 wins. The sophomore from Saratoga, Calif. jumped into the ITA's latest singles ranking at No. 123. Lamble strung together six consecutive wins during the month of April. For his outstanding play as the Broncos' No. 2 singles player, Lamble garnered Second Team All-WCC singles accolades. As a doubles player, Lamble and Osintsev gave the Broncos a youthful No. 1 team that was ranked for a majority of the season. They received Second Team-All WCC honors and were named the WCC Doubles Players of the Month during March.
Osintsev immediately made a splash on the Mission Campus. Osintsev decided to make the move from Russia to Santa Clara late and was added to the roster just prior to the school year. He made an impact right away as the No. 5 singles player. After losing against Boise State, the freshman blazed through his next 14 opponents. For his regular-season play, Osintsev was named the 2012 WCC Freshman of the Year. He was just the second Bronco to receive the honor. He finished the season 20-3, winning arguably SCU's biggest single match of the year. In the NCAA tournament's first round, Osintsev was up a set and had the chance to end the dual match against Texas. Despite falling behind 4-0 in the second set, Osintsev roared back. He used an ace that wowed the crowd to give him some breathing room in the tiebreaker, and eventually held off his opponent 7-6 (3), 7-6 (5). In doubles, Osintsev teamed up with Lamble to be a formidable No. 1 duo. They received Second Team-All WCC honors and were named the WCC Doubles Players of the Month during March.
Having missed a good portion of the year due to injury, the senior continued to be a strong player and motivator for Santa Clara. Armengaud played just three singles matches before getting hurt. Before his injury, he teamed with Vinel to give the Broncos a very good No. 3 doubles team. During his injury, Armengaud was the ultimate team player and his constant support paid off when he was able to return from injury to play with Vinel in the NCAA tournament matches against Texas and Stanford.
Pham started the season on fire for the Broncos. The junior played as the No. 4 singles player all year. At one point he won 16-straight matches and finished second on the team in overall wins (23). Pham picked up All-WCC Honorable Mention honors in both singles and doubles. As a doubles player, Pham and Dandan turned into a formidable No. 2 tandem that helped the Broncos routinely secure the doubles point during dual matches.
Congratulations to the Broncos on an outstanding 2011-12 season!