BYU 2012 men's tennis season preview

By Whitney Brooks

For the Deseret News

Published: Monday, Jan. 9 2012 1:18 p.m. MST

After ending its final year in the Mountain West Conference on top, the 2011-2012 Brigham Young University men’s tennis team looks to continue its tradition of success in its inaugural season as a member of the West Coast Conference. Led by seniors Georgy Batrakov and Michael Eraso, the No. 36 Cougars are poised for a promising year after a successful fall season.

“We’ve had some great success the last two seasons,” BYU coach Brad Pearce said. “I’m looking forward to continuing our progress as a program and a team. I’m really excited for this upcoming season.”

After strong fall performances, three Cougars enter the season ranked — No. 43 Batrakov, No. 67 freshman Keaton Cullimore and No. 106 sophomore Patrick Kawka.

Junior Spencer Smith led the team in fall play, compiling a 13-2 record. No. 53 Guillermo Alcorta of the University of Oklahoma and Kawka handed Smith his two losses during the fall season.

BYU used home-court advantage from the get-go, capturing both the singles and doubles title of the Utah Fall Classic. Smith set the pace for his fall season, winning the singles title over teammate Cullimore.

Cullimore looks poised to make a big impact in his debut season as he went on to claim his own title, teaming with high school senior John Pearce, coach Brad Pearce’s son, to take home the doubles title for the second consecutive year. The standout freshman finished fall play 10-4.

Batrakov proved his veteran experience, as he was the last Cougar standing in the ITA All-American Championships, his first fall appearance. The Russian-born player started competition in the qualifying rounds and made his way to the Round of 16 in the main draw, a feat that has not been accomplished by a Cougar since 2002.

The Cougars recorded an impressive 10 singles wins and four doubles wins during the prestigious tournament.

It was BYU’s doubles teams that shined in the ITA Mountain Region Championships, with three of the four quarterfinal matchups featuring a Cougar pair. Smith teamed up with freshman Francis Sargeant and upset the No. 5-seed to secure a spot in the semifinals. The newly formed pair amassed a 9-4 fall record.

Smith continued to make waves when he captured his second singles title of fall at the University of Utah Intercollegiates tournament.

After a riveting tournament run, Kawka capped off a strong fall showing by reaching the Southern California Intercollegiate Championships singles final before narrowly falling to No. 3 seed Clay Thompson of powerhouse UCLA.

The 2011 Mountain West Conference freshman of the year showed his versatility by teaming up with Batrakov to reach the doubles semifinals. The duo did not compete in the finals due to BYU’s policy of not playing on Sunday.

Conference play will be fierce this season with five WCC teams in the top 75, including perennial powerhouse No. 15 Pepperdine. Eleven teams on the 2012 Cougar schedule are nationally ranked, with eight finishing with a top-50 ranking.

For the fifth consecutive year, the men’s team will open play against Weber State. Tennis fans can get their first glimpse of the Cougars Jan. 13 at the BYU Indoor Tennis Courts against the in-state rival.

Whitney Brooks works in BYU Athletic Communications as the tennis sports information director. She can be reached at tennis_sid@byu.edu.

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