Men's Tennis at The University of Kansas
A Brief History
Tennis began as an intercollegiate sport at the University of Kansas in 1888 with the formation of the Southwest Tennis Association. The Jayhawks played Baker and Washburn in the four-year series, but no records were kept.
The KU Athletic Association took tennis under its wing in 1903, according to the Jayhawkers Yearbook, but records in the early 1900s are sketchy at best. In 1911, Kansas finished second in the Missouri Valley Championships. In 1916, KU captured its first conference tennis championship with captain Dix Teachner leading the way. The Jayhawks were heavily favored to repeat in 1917, but both Kenneth Uhls and Allie Cowgill were drafted and army barracks were placed over the tennis courts. Kansas would not take part in intercollegiate sports until 1921.
In 1924, Kansas won its second Missouri Valley Championship. In the 1930s, Kansas joined the Big Six Conference and took four conference crowns in the next decade. Under the direction of W.R. Smith, the 1931 squad won its first Big Six title. Wilbur F. Coen, Jr., led the way for the Jayhawks, winning the Big Six singles title and teaming with Leonard Prosser for the doubles championship.
That marked the beginning of a three-year reign as conference champions with Coen spear-heading the effort. In both 1932 and 1933, Coen was a player/coach for the Big Eight Champions. The 1932 squad was 8-0 and did not lose a match for the season. Coen, ďKansas Cityís internationally famous net star,Ē according to the Kansas City Times, was undefeated, but the Big Six did not have individual championships that year.
Art Voss won the conference singles title in 1934, then in 1937 led KU to its fourth Big Six Championship of the decade. The 1937 team had a 12-0 record, losing only six individual matches all season. William Kiley won the Big Six singles title, losing just one set during the entire season. Kiley and James Kell combined for the doubles championships.
In 1946, after five seasons without a team, Kansas won the Big Six title led by Roy Shoaf, who did not lose a set during the season. Shoaf would have been the conference champion, but no individual champions were named. Shoaf went on to win three rounds in the NCAA Tournament after having spent the last few years of World War II in a German POW Camp. When Shoaf was rescued, he weighed 128 pounds, down from his normal 200.
Jayhawk head coach Jim Seaverís 1948 team took the Big Seven Championship, led by Dick Richards and Glen Tongier. The two won the No. 1 and 2 conference singles titles, respectively, then combined to win the No. 1 doubles championship. Although it would be 16 more years before a Kansas net squad could claim a championship, the Jayhawks finished second six times and third five times.
The championship drought was broken by the 1964 team. Under head coach Denzell Gibbens, the Jayhawks captured the Big Eight crown. The Jayhawks dominated the conference tournament, winning five of seven titles. Jim Burns won the No. 1 singles title. Jay Lysaught won at No. 3 and John Grantham took the No. 4 crown. Burns and Lance Burr won at No. 1 doubles and Grantham and Barry McGrath won the No. 2 title. Kansas amassed a 14-2 record that season.
Bill Clarke, considered by some to be the best player in KU history, was ranked as the top player in the Missouri Valley section in 1975. Clarke recorded a 24-5 mark in singles play in 1976, including 17 consecutive victories on the way to a runner-up finish in the Big Eight singles final.
Clarke qualified for the NCAA Tournament in both 1976 and 1977, while winning the Big Eight No. 1 singles and doubles title in 1977. He finished with a 29-11 record, losing in the 16th round of the NCAA Tournament, and earned All-America honors.
It wasnít until 1987 that Kansas would earn another Big Eight team title. Freshman Chris Walker won KUĒs only singles title, but the Jayhawks took the No. 1 and No. 3 doubles championships at the Big Eight Tournament.
Head coach Scott Perelmanís team was led by Mike Wolf, who compiled a 41-12 singles record to become only the second KU player to win 40 singles matches in a season. Wolf ended his career as the winningest singles player in the history of Kansas menís tennis, with 142 wins and the first Jayhawk tennis player ever to qualify for four consecutive NCAA Tournaments.
Kansas won two Big Eight Conference titles in a row, winning in 1988, marking the first time since 1964 and 1965 that the Jayhawks had successfully defended their title. With the conference championship came the regional title and a second straight berth in the NCAA Tournament. For the second consecutive year, Kansas fell in the first round.
The 1989 season saw individual success as John Falbo and Jeff Gross qualified for the NCAA Singles Championships, and Falbo teamed with Jim Secrest to advance to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Doubles Championship and therefore earn All-America honors. Falbo was the first-ever returning All-American at Kansas.
In 1991, the Jayhawks reached as high as 13th in the Volvo poll. Kansas finished second in the Big Eight and received an at-large bid to the NCAA Team Championships. Walker and Craig Wildey received All-America status for their doubles play. Kansas finished the season ranked 22nd.
After winning the Big Eight Championship and the NCAA Region V Team title in 1994, the Jayhawks advanced to the sweet 16 of the NCAA Team Championships. They lost to Mississippi State in the first round, 4-0. Sophomores Michael Isroff and Reid Slattery qualified for the NCAA Doubles Tournament by finishing second in the region.
Led by 1995 All-American Enrique Abaroa and head coach Michael Center, the Jayhawks would defend their conference title two more years, capturing the crown in 1995 and 1996. The 1996 season would witness KU advancing to the round of 16 at the NCAA Championships, as the Jayhawks captured the Region V title with wins over Wichita State and Colorado.
Mark Riley took over the coaching reins prior to the 1997 season and delivered the Jayhawks to the regional tournament during his first three seasons at the helm. Riley coached three All-Americans during his four years as the KU head man, with Xavier Avila reaching the third round in singles at the NCAA Championships in 1997. The doubles team of Abaroa and Luis Uribe would reach the quarterfinals of doubles play a year later to garner their national accolades.
Riley accepted a coaching position in Pennsylvania in the fall of 2000. Ross Nwachukwu, assistant coach under Riley, was made head coach. Led by two-time Region V doubles champion Rodrigo Echagaray and 1999 Region V singles champ Eleazar Magallan, the Jayhawks found themselves ranked among the nationís elite programs once again during the 2001 season.
In early March 2001, the KU Athletic Department announced that it would discontinue the menís tennis program, as well as menís swimming and diving, following the 2000-01 season at Kansas due to budgetary problems.