July 24: Men's Tennis ranked No. 6
July 24, 2009
FRESNO, Calif. - Fresno State Athletics has had many memorable moments during its history. Each day during the month of July, Gobulldogs.com will highlight a great moment from Fresno State Athletics history.
July 24: Men's Tennis ranked No. 6 in 1996 and Fredrick Bergh reaches NCAA singles championship match.
Former Fresno State men's tennis coach Peter Smith has never forgotten his 1996 team that finished the year 23-5 and ranked No.6 in the country. The finish was the best in school history for the men's tennis team and Smith, who is now the head coach at USC watched as sophomore Fredrick Bergh advanced to the NCAA Singles championship match.
1996 was the first year the Bulldogs won a WAC championship and it was the third straight year they earned an NCAA tournament berth. Smith was named the 1996 ITA Region VII and WAC Coach of the Year.
The 1996 team was ready for success after the team earned its first-ever NCAA tourney berth in 1994 and Bergh was the first-ever All-American in 1995.
Recently Gobulldogs.com sat down with former coach Peter Smith to ask him about the 1996 team.
What made 1996 so special?
What made Frederick such a good player and was there a point during his run to the final where you knew he could do something special?
Are there any particular moments the 1996 season that stick out to you?
We had four seniors (Jake Bragonier, Blago Petrov, Bryan Juinio, Ryan Juinio), one junior in Fredrik Giers and Bergh was a sophomore. So there was talent and experience. The team didn't need to be pushed like other teams - there was a perfect balance between coaches and players. Fresno State teams are always road warriors. We had four top 15 wins that year on the road. The most satisfying was beating USC at their place. We hosted WAC championships at home and won the conference beating a great New Mexico team in front of a packed crowd that paved the way for the building of the Wathen Center. Fresno took us in and supported us. I remember not sleeping that night to wake up and get the paper to see the article. Now that was before the internet.
Was Fredericks run and the teams run expected?
Looking back on that team and wins we had set up my whole coaching career. Beating teams like Pepperdine and SC gave me creditability at those schools so when I interviewed for those jobs I had the upper edge. Without this group of individuals my career would have been very different. I have never forgotten that.
Coming tomorrow: July 25- Ruth Lawanson becomes the first female student-athlete to have her number retired.
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