Men’s tennis has international 64258;avor

At the beginning of last season, the U men’s tennis coach, F.D. Robbins, announced three team goals: He wanted his team to beat BYU, he wanted them to win the conference tournament and he wanted to develop the young players into formidable starters.

By the end of the 2004 season, Robbins had accomplished two of the three goals. While the Utes failed to win the Mountain West Conference Tournament, they did score a key victory against the nationally ranked Cougars in the first round of the MWC Tourney and many of the youngsters developed into strong players.

The biggest challenge for this year’s Utes will be overcoming the loss of their No. 1 singles player, Roeland Brateanu. A transfer from Arizona two years ago, Brateanu has been the dominant force of the men’s tennis program throughout his tenure. With his graduation, the coveted No. 1 singles spot becomes available once again.

In prime contention for the spot will be two Canadians: the big lefty, sophomore Miron Mann, and the speedy junior, Tomasz Grzyb. Both are among the players Robbins was referring to when he said that he wanted to develop his young players. Mann came into the program as a doubles player but finished last season playing in the upper singles slots. Grzyb began the season as a lower singles player, but moved up the charts throughout the year, finishing as the No. 2 singles player. Mann and Grzyb were both instrumental in the Utes’ win against BYU, as they each took points from the Cougars in singles play as well as doubles play.

Next year’s team will be devoid of any seniors, giving many players room for additional development, but Robbins will be looking for both of the Canadians to make a big splash early on.

Adding to the international flavor of next year’s team will be the Australian-born Jason Yap, who also developed nicely last year.

Another Canadian-born star on the U men’s tennis team is Nick Coutts, a strong player at the No. 2 doubles slot last season. Coutts will be asked to play more singles this year, but if his play at the end of last season is any indication, he will fit nicely into one of the middle singles slots.

Rounding out the group of returnees for next year are a couple of homegrown players: sophomore Dantley Young and junior Michael Bullard. What these two lack in international flavor, they make up for with hard work and dedication.

While the Utes will always have difficulty winning a conference title outright in such a tough conference, with high quality returning athletes the Utes will definitely make a strong run next season.

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