AZUSA, Calif.-- In 2013 the Azusa Pacific men’s tennis program claimed its second national championship, winning the National Christian College Athletics Association title behind a veteran lineup that included four-time All-American Jochem Hoefnagels and fellow senior Whitman Hough. Now, in order to defend their championship, the 2014 Cougars will rely on a much different makeup; one that includes five new players and just one senior.
“It’s a bit of a mixed bag. We’ve lost three players that were significant for us last season, but we’ve added some really talented guys. It’s a young team in a lot of ways, but we have some players with a lot of experience, and I think by year’s end we’ll be a really good team,” said head coach Mark Bohren.
With Hoefnagels and Hough graduated, and perennial spark plug Ben Eger redshirting, the Cougars’ lineup will have to replace a trio of players that combined for 61 singles victories a season ago.
Working in the Cougars’ favor is the fact that two of their top-three singles players are back atop the lineup. Senior Frederik Wilkens was an All-PacWest honoree in 2013, and after three years with Azusa Pacific, is set to lead the program to another strong season.
Sophomore Jan Meyer played the majority of the 2013 campaign at No. 3 singles, and after a strong offseason that included an ITA West Regional championship, is poised to build off a 23-1 rookie season. Gary Yam is back for his third year with the team, while Joseph Remington returns after a freshman season in which he went 3-0 in singles competition.
And while Azusa Pacific has its fair share of successful players returning for the 2014 season, in order for it to contend for another national championship, it will have to rely on the production of its five newcomers.
The Cougars added Easter Washington transfer Tomas Aranguiz and sophomore Randall Hsieh, along with a freshmen Pascal Engel, Alan Leahy, and Sasha Kinglsey.
“The players we’ve added are good, but it will take some time for the team to get to where we need to be. Even though Tomas played Division I tennis, he’s played a lot of indoors. So I’m curious to see how he plays a full season outdoors. Pascal and Alan have played a lot, and will make an immediate impact for us,” said Bohren.
“For us to go undefeated in the regular season like we did last year isn’t a realistic expectation. I’m not sure we’re as good, but by the end of the season I think we can be pretty close.”
Azusa Pacific will learn a lot about itself early on when it faces a Vanguard team that’s ranked No. 3 in the NAIA preseason poll on opening Day, Saturday Feb. 1. The Cougars will play seven matches against NCAA Division II teams ranked in the top-20, including No. 1 Barry, and No. 5 Hawai’i Pacific. Azusa Pacific will also take on NCAA Division III No. 3 Amherst, and No. 6 Emory before competing in the PacWest championship tournament.
“We always try to play as difficult a schedule as possible, and this year’s no different. Vanguard can come in here and beat us if we don’t play our ‘A’ game, and there are a ton of other teams that we’ll face that can give us a lot of trouble. I think it will make us grow as a team, and help us become a group that can improve as the year goes on,” said Bohren.
Frederik Wilkens: In his first three seasons Wilkens has recorded 48 wins thanks to his steady temperament and consistent play. Now, as the lone senior leader, he’ll have to guide a young team atop the lineup. In 2013 he was an All-NCCAA tournament performer, and closed the year ranked No. 12 in the NCAA West Region.
Jan Meyer: Meyer put together one of the most impressive freshman campaigns in program history, posting a 23-1 singles record, and sealing the NCCAA championship with a match-clinching victory over Fresno Pacific in the final. In the fall he won the ITA West Region championship, and took home third place at the ITA national singles Division II championships. And despite just one season of play under his belt, he’ll be one of the more experienced players in the Cougar lineup.
Gary Yam: Known for his methodical play, Yam has earned a reputation for being Azusa Pacific’s closer in his first two seasons. Over that time he’s compiled a 32-8 singles record, and last year registered a perfect 10-0 mark in doubles action when teaming with Wilkens. He also came up big in the team’s defeat of rival Fresno Pacific, clinching the 5-4 victory over the Sunbirds with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 win.
Joseph Remington: Remington saw limited action in his first year with the program, but made the most of his time on the court by posting victories in all three of his matches. He went 2-0 at No. 5 singles, and added a win at No. 6. He also won his lone doubles match, partnering with Daniel Sosnowski for a victory.
Tomas Aranguiz: Aranguiz played one season of Division I tennis at Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Wash., and in his freshman season posted an 8-12 singles record. The Ayala High School product played exclusively at No. 2 and No. 3 singles, and tabbed a 10-10 mark in doubles action.
Pascal Engel: Engel will jump right into the Cougar lineup, giving Azusa Pacific a talented option. The Seesen, Germany native may play anywhere from No. 3 to No. 6 in his freshman season.
Alan Leahy: Leahy is another rookie that the Cougars will need to rely on in 2014. In his prep career, Leahy recorded a perfect 54-0 singles record as a junior and senior in singles action at Claremont High School, and helped guide his high school program to three consecutive league championships.
Sasha Kingsley: Kingsley is one of three freshman to play for the Cougars this season. He played four seasons of tennis at Singapore American School, and this year, will be a valuable player for Bohren as Azusa Pacific embarks against a daunting schedule.
Randall Hsieh: Hsieh is another talented newcomer. He played three seasons at Maranatha High School in Pasadena, and went to three consecutive league singles finals while earning all-league honors. He gives Bohren added depth amongst a talented lineup.