Las Cruces, N.M.-The New Mexico State University men's tennis team reached many benchmarks and broke various records during the 2010-11 season.
In his first year as head coach, Carlos Vargas led NM State to an overall record of 14-7, which is the best record for the Aggies since going 15-6 in 2000 while playing in the Best West Conference.
NM State rose from the ashes late in the season from a conference record of 1-2 to a conference record of 4-2 and the No. 2 seed in the Western Athletic Conference tournament. NM State received a first-round bye and defeated Idaho 4-2 in the semifinals on April 30. NM State faced No. 1 seed Fresno State in the WAC championship match, losing 4-1.
"I felt we played pretty good, but Fresno State played better," Vargas said. "Nevertheless, we had a very good season and exceeded my expectations for my first season."
The 2nd place finish by NM State was the best finish for the Aggies ever since joining the WAC in 2006.
The Aggie lineup combined to win 120 singles matches and 50 doubles matches. Three different Aggies won at least 20 singles matches. Senior Jim Brouleau won 22 matches, Senior Arthur Surreaux won 21 matches and sophomore Orlando Superlano won 27 matches. Two different Aggies won at least 20 doubles matches as well. Brouleau and Superlano each won 20 doubles matches, and Surreaux was one match short, winning 19 doubles matches.
NM State had many reasons to celebrate during the season, but Vargas cites the 4-3 loss to Utah State in the second match of the season on Jan. 22 in Las Cruces as the low point for the team. The loss against Utah State initiated a 4-match losing streak that put NM State in a 1-4 hole to open the season.
"The loss to Utah State was definitely a low point for us," Vargas said. "The good thing is that it gave us a chance to start finding ourselves mentally."
NM State later traveled to Denver, Colo., on the weekend of Feb. 12, winning matches against No. 40 Denver University and Air Force. These wins, coupled with a 6-1 victory over Southern Miss a week before, added to a winning streak by NM State that eventually reached six matches.
"The win against Denver showed us what level we can reach if we are all on the same page," Vargas said.
Vargas said the trip to Fresno, Calif., on the weekend of April 15 was a momentum builder for the remainder of the season. NM State defeated Hawai'i 4-2 on April 15 and lost to Fresno State 5-1 on April 17.
After the loss to Fresno State, NM State returned to Las Cruces and went 4-0 to finish out the season. The season-concluding home stand included victories over WAC opponents Idaho, No. 50 Boise State and Nevada. The 4-2 win against Boise State on April 22 was the first victory by NM State over Boise State in school history.
A huge part of the Aggies' success can be credited to the leadership of the two seniors, Arthur Surreaux and Jim Brouleau.
Surreaux played most of the season in the No. 1 spot, going 6-13 during dual play. Surreaux's best performance came in the fall when he went 15-2 while winning two separate tournaments. Surreaux was crowned champion in the singles bracket of both the Aggie Invitational (Sept. 12) and the Baylor Invitational (Sept. 26). Surreaux's success earned him the honor of WAC Player of the Month for September 2010. Surreaux's 15-2 fall record is the best fall record for an Aggie in recent memory. Surreaux was also named to the second team All-WAC for singles.
"Surreaux gave us many good wins, especially in the fall," Vargas said. "Surreaux has some big shoes to fill at No. 1, but he won some important matches for us and contributed to a successful season."
Brouleau played most of the season in the No. 2 spot, going 17-4 during the spring. No Aggie won more singles matches at any particular spot in the lineup than Brouleau did by winning 16 matches in the No. 2 spot. The 2010-11 season was Brouleau's 4th season playing in the Aggie lineup. Overall, Brouleau accumulated over 90 singles wins and over 70 doubles matches. Brouleau was named as WAC Player of the Week for April 18-25 to cap off the regular season. Brouleau was also named to the second team All-WAC singles and doubles.
"Jim is one of those guys you can leave alone on the court and he will always give 100 percent no matter what," Vargas said. "Jim had his best season ever this season and will be very hard to replace."
Junior Matej Stakne and sophomores Orlando Superlano and Luis Ramirez each contributed in the middle of the lineup and provided many wins for the Aggies.
Stakne played consistent tennis throughout the whole season, finishing with an overall singles record of 14-13 and an overall doubles record of 11-16. Stakne found success in both the fall and spring. Stakne reached the semifinals of the ITA Mountain Regional Championships on Oct. 23, which was good enough to earn him WAC Player of the Month award for October 2010. Stakne was also named to the second team All-WAC for doubles with Brouleau.\
"Matej has been a steady player," Vargas said. "There will not be any surprises either way, but he is always reliable."
No Aggie produced more wins that Superlano with his 27 singles wins. Superlano never had a losing streak of any sort during the spring. Superlano had two separate 4-singles match winning streaks, as well as an 8-match winning streak that lasted from Feb. 13-April 15. Aside from having the best singles record on the team, Superlano also had the best doubles record with a 20-9 record. Superlano's efforts were enough to be named to the second team All-WAC for singles.
"Superlano was strong in the middle and we are looking for him to step up even further in the lineup for next year," Vargas said.
Ramirez played mostly in the No. 5 spot, going 15-4 in that spot. Ramirez had an overall singles record of 17-5 and an overall doubles record of 12-9. The match against No. 40 Denver catapulted Ramirez to the end of the season. Ramirez went 13-1 from Feb. 11 to the end of the season on April 24.
"Ramirez was solid at the No. 5 spot and still has not even reached his full potential," Vargas said.
The two Aggie freshmen Felipe Frattini and Marc Westgate each contributed their talents during their first season as an Aggie. Frattini only played singles, going 13-10 overall and 10-7 in the spring. Westgate only played doubles, going 7-8 overall.