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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Ranked 'Bows continue to roll

By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer

Sascha Heinemann

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The University of Hawai'i men's tennis team hit a drop shot of historic proportions when it upset successive ranked teams last week to drop into the Intercollegiate Tennis Association's Fila Collegiate Rankings for the first time yesterday. UH is ranked 59th. The computer-generated poll ranks 75 of the 256 eligible Division I teams.

The 'Bows (6-4) hammered their way in with wins over Purdue (then-No. 70) Thursday and Arizona State (40) Saturday. They celebrated yesterday with their sixth victory in seven matches, defeating WAC rival New Mexico State, 6-1, at the UH Tennis Complex.

"I was just ecstatic," said UH senior Ryan Sceats. "This is what we've been working for. This has been my dream now for 3 1/2 years. This has been my goal. Unbelievable. I've been smiling for three days."

This was no fluke. Purdue was coming off an upset of Harvard, and ASU had just taken out perennial NCAA contender Stanford, which beat Hawai'i twice earlier this season. The 'Bows beat the Boilermakers, 5-2, then won, 4-3, over the Sun Devils when Sceats and junior Chad Faulk rallied for three-set victories.

Sascha Heinemann, a freshman from Germany playing No. 1 for UH, won both his matches in straight sets, losing just four games. He was named WAC Player of the Week yesterday for his dominance, just before winning again in straight sets.

Heinemann (8-2) has won seven straight singles matches. Hawai'i's first three players senior Bryon Weinberg plays No. 2 and Sceats No. 3 are 23-7.

Third-year coach John Nelson came to UH from San Diego State, where his team reached the Sweet 16 in 2000, and UC-Davis, where his team captured the 1990 NCAA Division II championship.

In San Diego, he also coached German Alexander Waske, now ranked among the Top 100 in the world. Waske told his friend Heinemann that Nelson "made him what he is now," according to Heinemann. That was enough to take Heinemann, who wants to go pro after college, far from home to help the 'Bows make opponents' visits less enjoyable.

"Now the teams are coming out and they know they are playing a good team," said Heinemann, whose first task at UH was to find a tutor for every class. "They are not coming out to have it easy ... We are improving a lot everyday. That's our goal and we are doing it. There is no end."

The end suddenly in sight is Hawai'i's first NCAA Championship appearance. It can get there with a win at the WAC Championship later this month or, probably, a Top-40 ranking (64 teams make the tournament field).

Nelson said he felt this was possible last year, but the 'Bows could never close. This month they are, after using a five-week break in the schedule to emphasize fitness and enhance individual skills. It was brutal according to the players, who are not complaining.

"When it came down to the end (Saturday) and Faulk won it, they were all very, very happy," Nelson said. "When you are just grinding and grinding and all of a sudden you've got it, it's a great feeling ... but we are not content."

Reach Ann Miller at amiller@honoluluadvertiser.com.