Men’s Tennis Keeps On Improving

In alumnus Trevor Kronemann’s first three seasons as UC Irvine’s men’s tennis coach, the team performed with a sub-par record: 34-41. With a 5-2 March 30 victory over Tulane, the No. 56 ranked Anteaters pushed their record to six games over five hundred, at 13-7 (2-0 in Big West).

“Nothing [has changed]. I’ve believed in every guy that’s come through this program,” Kronemann said simply when asked what was different from years past,

Kronemann, a former ten-year professional tennis player and a four-time All-American at UCI (1987-1990), admits that throughout his career he was never nonchalant about losing. In fact, he despised it.

“It took me two or three days to get over it,” Kronemann said.  “Nowadays, some guys just plug in their iPods after a loss and go back to their college lives.”

Kronemann’s goal is to instill passion in his players.

“I want it to cause tears if we lose or great elation if we win,” Kronemann said.

Although his commitment to the sport began when he was just three years old, Kronemann does not measure his life by wins and losses.  As a tennis professional, he explains that he won just six tournaments out of the “400-something events” that he entered.

“That’s a lot of losses,” Kronemann said jokingly. “This is a naked game, like boxing, where it’s just you against your opponent.  That’s what I love about it. But whether you win or lose, you should take something from every match.”

The ’Eaters are 2-0 in conference play, but their competition isn’t getting any easier.  With a monumental match today against No. 7 Stanford and a Cal Poly conference rivalry contest ahead, the team will undoubtedly be challenged. However, this is a task that Kronemann welcomes.

“We play a tough schedule,” Kronemann said.

In the 75 matches that his team played in his first three seasons as the Anteaters’ coach, Kronemann believes that his team could have won about 60 of those games, if they were facing lesser opponents.  The reason for the arduous schedule, Kronemann explains, is because he wants his team to be tested.

“We aren’t going to get recruits unless we face great talent,” Kronemann said. “I wouldn’t count us out against Stanford.  We’re going to have to play our best tennis.”

In a sense, one big win would do wonders for Irvine’s team confidence.

Irvine’s top-ranked singles player, senior Zac Tsai, echoed his coach’s feelings about confidence.

“I want us to win the Big West and go to the NCAA tournament,” Tsai said. “We have to work really hard, because there’s always more that we can accomplish.”

Along with playing No. 1 singles this season, Tsai has also teamed up with sophomore Steven Henderson as UCI’s No. 1 doubles team, a tandem Kronemann calls, “almost automatic.”

The men’s tennis team’s record has improved this season; however, Kronemann admits that he’s much more impressed by what his team has done off the court.

“Our No. 12 guy, [senior] Douglas Taylor, just received a full scholarship to go to the second-best biomechanical engineering program in the country,” Kronemann said with pride.

Along with Taylor’s accomplishment, Kronemann expressed that the heart of his team has been demonstrated by “having the guys go down to San Diego to help fire victims,” by featuring Tsai, a player who was a walk-on freshman and now captain of the team, and by possessing senior Shimpei Suzuki, who persevered after missing a year and a half of action due to knee surgery.

“These are guys you want to coach and be around,” Kronemann said, noticeably bothered by the idea of losing three difference makers to graduation.

Before Tsai, Suzuki and Taylor depart, the Anteaters have business to take care of. Last season the ’Eaters lost in the Big West championship, falling one win short of an NCAA tournament berth. In order to reach the tournament, Kronemann recognizes that all it takes is belief.

“They’re fighters. This team wants to win,” Kronemann said.

Whether the Anteaters can claim their 13th Big West Championship in program history and reach the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2005 remains to be seen.

“We have three sophomores who are potential All-Americans,” Kronemann said. “They were a part of our recruiting class two years ago which was top ten in the country.  We’re only going to get better.”