Glory Days: The Future is Now for Men's Tennis

By Karl M. Korzenewski*

Somewhere, deep within the spirit, which comprises the best athletes, there is a hard-edged determination, to go the extra mile, to overcome the odds and to be the very best. Athletes have described it as reaching down and discovering a part of themselves that they didn't know was there. For many, this sense of discovery offers rewards far greater than the accumulation of first place trophies. It makes up for the long hours of practice and playing in spite of pain or injury. Ironically, this "something" usually goes hand in hand with winning, and a successful athlete carries it with him for a lifetime.

On May 15, 1985, the Chapman College Men's Tennis team, won the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II Championship with the final victory coming over Hampton Institute of Virginia by a 5-4 score. For the players and the Chapman Tennis Program, the championship served as a culmination of a year's dedication and hard work. The seeds of this success, however, were planted much earlier.

Tennis at Chapman grew from humble beginnings in the mid- 1940s. Early "pick-up" teams were comprised of students who just happened to enjoy playing the game. For these fledgling teams, a season in which victories equaled defeats was considered successful. This trend continued until the early 1960s.The 1963-64 team featured fine players such as Chris Bowen, Woody Dietch, Charlie Hunter and Thad Montgomery. "Don Perkins, the Athletic Director, supported us and got the team to tour more," Montgomery recalls. "'That year we beat many of the larger schools and began to earn some respect in the conference."

The program got an added boost in 1967 with the addition of Dan Bohannon who would play number one singles until 1970. As a senior Bohannon reached the semifinals of the NCAA Division II Tournament and was named All-American. Bohannon joined the faculty after his graduation and coached tennis until 1973.

Bohannon's greatest contribution to Chapman Tennis, however, may have come by accident. One afternoon he met an alumnus by the name of A. Andrew Johnson who was interested in taking tennis lessons. Bohannon agreed to give the lessons and Johnson subsequently became devoted to seeing the program thrive. Today, Johnson is president of Sea Energy Corporation and a trustee at Chapman. He has been a key benefactor of Chapman tennis, to the degree that Thad Montgomery said; "There simply wouldn't be a tennis program at Chapman without Andy." Johnson, himself takes a more humble view. "The success of the program is not because of anyone person, the entire Athletic Foundation has had a part in this. My own economic contributions come from my love of tennis and from the fact that I saw tennis as a sport where a few scholarships could make an immediate impact."

Johnson's personal impact took an added dimension in 1979. "Then Athletic Director Bob Pomeroy asked me if I would coach the team while he looked for the next coach," Johnson recalls. "I thought he meant for 48 hours or so and I agreed. As it turned out, I ended up coaching, --- babysitting maybe more accurate--- for the next two years."

Lee Shields, the recipient of Chapman's first tennis scholarship, became the coach for the first part of the 1981-82 year. Alan Mishne, currently director of financial aid at the College, finished the year as coach. "The problem with Chapman Tennis was that the coaching job was only a three month position with a $1,000 salary," says Johnson. "It was obvious that until we could find a full-time coach, the program was going to suffer."

The coach, however, found the College first. Mike Edles, former coach at California State University, Bakersfield, approached Chapman about the position. "I was getting married, and both my wife and I were from Long Beach, so we were in the process of moving back to be near the family and friends," Edles recalls. "Getting the Chapman job couldn't have worked out better for me." In 1982, Edles took over a tennis program, which had p1aced seventh among the eight teams in the California Collegiate Athletic Association. The players were talented, but represented a wide range of personalities, abilities, and social backgrounds. The new coach had his work cut out for him.

 There are three things which you must do well to have a winning program, explains Edles. "First is recruiting, second you have to convince the players of their own potential for development, finally you work hard to realize your potential. Hard work, and discipline are the keys toward making players a TEAM."

With these thoughts in mind, Chapman's tennis players began the mountainous challenge that lay before them. The panthers became very familiar with the Edles' work ethic as the Coach added numerous Division I schools to the team's schedule.

"Playing the Division I teams helps to take away the pressure of our Division II matches," says team captain John Kline. "Gearing up to play a school like USC also helps to take our minds off of the Nationals."

In the last three years, Chapman has earned victories over universities such as Harvard, Princeton, Arizona (twice), Utah, Wichita State, Auburn and San Diego State. The job of beating these larger Division I schools is a difficult one, but it is also rewarding for both the players and the team.

Edles suggests that Chapman plays the toughest schedule in the nation. "We have played two games in one day on four separate occasions. I don't think that any other Division II schools do that.

But our schedule, more than anything else, is what prepares us for Nationals."

The hard work paid off. When Chapman won the finals in 1985, the College became the first West Coast team to win the Division II title since UC Irvine did it in 1977. Perhaps not coincidentally, Edles was a member of the Irvine team as a sophomore. The 1985 championship also put Edles in the record book. He is the only man to both play on and coach teams, which won a NCAA Division II championship in the 23 year history of the national tournament.

In recognition of his efforts in turning around the Chapman program, Edles was recently named, Division II Coach of the Year by the Intercollegiate Tennis Coaches Association. He was also named the California Collegiate Athletic Association's Coach of the Year for 1986. This year, every team in the country played its best tennis against Chapman knowing, that a win over the National Champion, is the sort of thing, which moves a team up in the rankings.

"We know that the favorites often don't win," said number one singles player, Troy Turnbull, before the championship tournament. "You need do it."The pressures, which faced the Chapman squad, were by no means restricted to the tennis court. "Everyone was asking if we could repeat ... students, parents, alumni, friends of the College, and of course the media," says Edles, "my job was to diffuse that pressure. We knew that we could not rest on our laurels. We worked our hardest and played our best. We did that, so I can't ask for anything more." Unfortunately for the Panther team, hard work and desire do not ensure national championships. On May14, 1986, Chapman lost in the finals to the Mustangs of Cal Poly of San Luis Obispo, 5-4 in one of those matches "neither team deserved to lose."

"Chapman and San Luis Obispo play each other so tough," said Cal Poly SLO Coach Hugh Bream in reference to the fact that the two teams split their two conference matches this year. "And when you have eight of nine matches go three sets, it just can't get any closer or better." Regardless of the outcome of the final match, Chapman certainly had a season, and a team of which to be proud.

Accolades for the players, coach and the team came by the handful. Here is a run down of the 1986 squad: Troy Turnbull came to Chapman from Auckland New Zealand. As a senior he became the first player in Chapman tennis history to be ranked number one in the nation (Division II). An aggressive serve and volley player with one of the best serves in the nation, Turnbull has been an All-American in each of his four years at Chapman.

He was also voted the, MVP of the California Collegiate Athletic Association for both 1985 and 1986. Turnbull captured the Rolex Intercollegiate Tennis Coaches Association College Division singles national title in 1985. This year, the ITCA named him Senior of the Year. John Soldat, a senior, is probably Chapman's best doubles player. like Turnbull, Soldat is also a big serve and volley player. The Canadian native gathered All-American honors in doubles in 1983, teaming with Turnbull. He is ranked #15 in the nation this season. "He has made the greatest strides of all the players I have had at Chapman," says Edles, Soldat is a member of the All-CCAA team for 1986. As a 17-year old freshman from Kenya, Paul Wekesa was teamed with John Hancock, to win the 1985 national title in No.2 doubles. He has also been named All-American as both a freshman and a sophomore. Wekesa is a tall, fast, all-around shot maker with perhaps the most pure talent on the team. "He can do it all," says Edles of his sophomore star, ranked #5 nationally, Wekesa is a 1986 All-CCAA selection. He also plays for the Kenya Davis Cup team. Freshman Olivier Arnerlinck was a 'big' addition to this year's team. The, 6'8" left hander from Belgium has what may be the most powerful forehand in the nation. He teams with Soldat to form Chapman's No.1 doubles team. With a #18 national ranking, Amerlinck is ITCA Freshman of the Year for Division II, and was named All-American. He is also one of Chapman's five All-CCAA players.

Senior team captain, John Kline, an All-American in 1985, could play number one for a lot of other colleges. According to his coach, Kline is "an unsung hero who deserves much of the credit for Chapman's record the last two years." An All-CCAA choice, Kline is ranked #22 in the nation among Division II schools.

Brad Parker (ranked 37th in the nation at the start of the season), and Bis Houssels (a member of the 1985 championship team, and one of 12 Scholar Athlete award winners from the ITCA) have each shared time in the No.5 and No. 6 singles spots. In addition, newcomers, Scott Spearman and Dave Brinton, contributed to the 1986 edition of Panther Tennis. Paul Charlesworth, also a member of the 1985 championship team, was sidelined this year due to injury.

Chapman is likely to remain a powerhouse in the years to come. National recognition as a top team should help to perpetuate the College's winning ways. According to Coach Edles the current goal for the program is to remain atop Division II team. There are also whispers that the squad may someday establish itself among the top Division I schools. Our success has made the job of recruiting easier," says Edles. "We now have credibility as a strong program. We have not reaped all of the benefits just yet, but we are already seeing a greatcr number of high quality recruits than in the past. It is important for the team to continue to feel a sense of growth," says Edles. I also want our players to make a wholehearted effort toward obtaining their degrees," he assures. The players may not realize it, but they are getting more than simply a strong liberal arts education at Chapman. Through athletic competition they are learning values that will remain with them beyond the world of passing shots, cross- court volleys, and service aces.

Chapman's Tennis All-Americans

*Chapman Col1ege Quarterly-Summer 1986