San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

Sdsu Tennis: Sehr Gut

By Michael KlitzingAssistant Sports Editor

Last year was a banner season for the best program on campus thatnobody knows about. With little fanfare, San Diego State rode a 15-7record into the NCAA Tournament and advanced all the way to the Sweet16.

However, with SDSU losing Alex Waske, its best player and teamleader this off-season, some might expect the Aztecs to stumble.

Don’t count the Intercollegiate Tennis Association among thedoubters.

The ITA preseason national rankings are out, and SDSU sits at No.19.

“Potentially, we can be better than we were last year,” saidAztecs head coach John Nelson. “Obviously Alexander Waske is a hugeloss, but we have some very good players coming in.

“Last year we went from being ranked somewhere in the 30s toknocking off the No. 3 and 5 teams in the country, so we honestlybelieve that we deserve to be there.”

However, sophomore Oliver Maiberger said the Aztecs still need tojustify their ranking.

“Last year was kind of a surprise for everybody,” Maiberger said.”This is the year we have to go out and prove we are one of the top16 teams in the country. I think we have a good enough team to dothat and even improve upon last year.”

Improving as a team after losing its best player may be a tallorder. To build such a consistent winner, SDSU looked across theAtlantic. What they found may be the future.

The German pipeline

Fate smiled upon the Aztecs in 1997 when Waske, a highly-toutedrecruit from Frankfurt, Germany, decided to take his game to America.

His choice seemed clear: UCLA, UC Irvine or Pepperdine. However,none of the three programs could offer Waske the athletic scholarshiphe was seeking.

Enter SDSU.

Nelson happened to have one full-ride scholarship available. Itwas enough to persuade Waske to come south.

As it turns out, it was a match made in heaven as both Waske andthe Aztecs rose to new heights. SDSU, which had gone 34-56 in matchplay during the three years prior to 1997, posted a 48-21 recordafter the arrival of the German star.

Likewise, Waske flourished under the tutelage of Nelson. In justthree years, his German national ranking rocketed from No. 190 to No.20.

Said Nelson: “His game developed so much technically and mentallyand he started talking to his friends, saying ‘Hey, go over and runthe hard court and develop your game.'”

Thus the foundation for the pipeline had been set. It was time forthe talent to flow.

The next generation

If anyone is capable of filling Waske’s shoes, Maiberger is theguy. As a freshman last year, the product of Lorsch, Germany, wasdownright dominating. Playing primarily as the Aztecs’ No. 2 singlesplayer, he compiled a 22-1 record.

And his one loss wasn’t exactly against a slouch.

“In his first match for us in the tournament, he ended up losingto Alex Kim, who won the NCAAs,” Nelson said. “(Maiberger) is a verysolid player and he’s only a sophomore.”

Filling the No. 2 spot vacated by Maiberger will be yet anotherGerman, Valentino Pest. The sophomore from Munich struggled some lastseason, finishing singles play 5-7, but it is his performance sincethen that has been encouraging.

Pest turned heads this fall, claiming the singles title at the ITARegionals in Las Vegas.

But the German imports have not ended with Maiberger and Pest.Freshman Felix Hardt, another German, may fill the No. 3 spot. Hardtis expected to be cleared to play by the NCAA as early as thisweekend.

It seems that in Germany, the word is out about SDSU.

“San Diego State is definitely now known in Germany for (helping)Alex get that big,” Pest said. “It’s not well-known by the media, butin the tennis community it is.”

The talent stateside

As good as the Germans are, three players alone do not make ateam. However, they do bring depth to an already talented roster.

Junior Travis Hasson and senior Matt Bere are the most experiencedof the American-born Aztecs and will likely man the No. 4 and 5spots. Hasson, who was 17-7 in singles play last season, has beenwith the program longer than any player and realizes he may have totackle more of a leadership role with the departure of Waske.

“Alex was a huge motivator,” Hasson said. “With him leaving, Iwill have to step up a little bit along with some other guys.”

Shawn Hiatt should also see significant action in singles play.Hiatt, a transfer from BYU, was used sparingly last season, butNelson said he is pleased with the progress of the senior.

“Hiatt has improved tremendously over last year,” Nelson said.”He’s very conscientious and hard working. I expect a lot out ofhim.”

Bringing it all together

As it stands, the Aztecs have the talent to live up to theexpectations of the pollsters. The German connection gives SDSU oneof the deepest rosters in the nation. But that doesn’t mean they areimmune to an upset.

While the Aztecs advanced far in the NCAAs last season, they didnot win the Mountain West, falling to New Mexico in the second round.

“I’d rather have lost in conference and then go on to make it tothe Sweet 16,” Nelson said. “It’s better than winning the conferenceand losing in the first or second round in the NCAAs.”

But this year, it will be possible for Nelson and the Aztecs tohave their cake and eat it too.

“Losing conference was kind of a blow, but to win the region andgo to Georgia was outstanding,” Hasson said. “Now our sights are evenhigher.”

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San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913
Sdsu Tennis: Sehr Gut