"We had a very good year, all things considered," said coach Peter Wright. "Our team played through adversity from start to finish and the players deserve a lot of credit for banding together like they did. In my four year tenure as head coach, there is no doubt that this was the best team I've had the privilege to coach. In the past we've had a number of strong individuals out on the court, but our wins this year required a team effort and we got it."
Before the season even got under way, the Bears lost No. 1 Michael Hill, who gave up his final year of eligibility to turn pro, and last year's No. 3 Kian Raiszadeh, who wanted to focus on admission to medical school. Then after playing only one doubles match, new No. 1 Bobby Mahal suffered a elbow injury which sidelined him for six weeks. He returned to action against Oklahoma in mid-March picking up wins in both singles and doubles, but, after further testing, was forced to undergo season ending surgery.
"Some of our young players were forced into action earlier than we would have liked," said Wright. "It will pay dividends for us down the road, but this season we were clearly fighting an uphill battle."
Individual highlights for the Bears included Minh Le's 20-win season (20-13), while David Sutton (15-15) and Brian Fernando (17-10) finished the year at or above .500. No. 1 singles Chris Santoso ended the season with an overall singles record of 13-16, but shined on the doubles courts teaming with Sutton. The duo compiled a 12-10 dual match record in what is arguably the toughest tennis conference in the nation and will be the only Cal representation at the NCAA Championships in Los Angeles, May 15-24. For his efforts, Santoso was voted to the All-Pac-10 Southern Division second team.
Perhaps the best indication of achievement for the 1997 Bears lies in the naming of Wright as Pac-10 Southern Division Coach of the Year. His first such award from the Pac-10 in four seasons at the helm of the Bears, Wright garnered Wilson/ITA Regional Coach of the Year Honors in 1994.
"We had a young team last year," said Wright. "Its was a hungry team. In addition we have six good recruits coming in next year, many of whom will challenge for a spot in lineup next spring."