May 3, 2001
NEW ORLEANS, La. - Freshman Michael Kogan (Kfar-Saba, Israel) continued his amazing rookie season by winning Conference USA Player of the Year, as well as Freshman of the Year honors, the league announced Thursday. In addition, head coach Robert Klein was a unanimous selection as the C-USA Coach of the Year. The awards were selected in a vote of the league's 10 head coaches.
Tulane, ranked No. 39 in the nation, entered the Conference USA Tournament as the No. 2 seed, but won all three of its matches, including a championship upset of top seed South Florida, to claim its second title under Klein. The other came in 1997. Kogan, playing at No. 1 singles and doubles, did not drop a set in the tournament, winning all six of his matches.
For Klein, this is the second time he has earned C-USA Coach of the Year honors (the other was also 1997), while Kogan becomes the second player during Klein's tenure to earn Player of the Year honors. Robert Samuelson earned the honor an unprecedented three consecutive years (1997, 1998, 1999). Samuelson also earned Freshman of the Year accolades in 1996.
Kogan, ranked No. 34 in the nation, has recorded a 16-2 record in dual match play this spring, while for the entire year, he is 29-4. In addition, the hard-hitting freshman has a near perfect 17-1 spring record in doubles action with Viljanen. That tandem is ranked No. 12 in the nation in pairs play.
"Michael is the highest ranked player in the conference and rightly so," Klein said. "He has had a great season for us in singles and doubles. He is the best player in the conference and very deserving of this honor. It is not easy to do that [win Player of the Year] as a freshman."
Romero, who debuted with the Green Wave this spring, had a tremendous season, posting a 17-3 record and climbing as high as No. 84 in the national rankings (he is currently No. 94). The sophomore opened at No. 3 singles, going a perfect 6-0, before moving to No. 2 and also substituting for Kogan at No. 1 for five matches. Romero also tallied a 14-5 record in doubles action, teaming with classmate Jorge Lievano (Bucaramanga, Colombia).
"Victor is 17-3 and two of his losses came early in the season." Klein said. "He has been on a tear recently, playing great tennis. It is an award that he is very deserving of, there are not too many players who come in January and go 17-3 at No. 2."
One of two seniors on the Green Wave roster, Viljanen has turned in his best season this year. He has posted a 14-5 record at No. 2 and No. 3 singles, while also teaming with Kogan to form one of the more formidable doubles duos in the nation.
"Mikko has a great record for us at No. 3 and 2 and his doubles performance at No.1 has been phenomenal," Klein said. "His level of play is most noticeable by his two No. 1 doubles wins without Kogan. This is the type of tennis we were hoping to get from him this year. It has been very rewarding to see him perform the way he has this year. He has had a great senior year."
Tulane, with a 15-8 record and an eight-match win streak, will be in action next weekend in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. It will be the Green Wave's fifth consecutive trip to the NCAAs. The tourney pairings will be announced at 3 p.m. on Thursday (5/3). The announcement will be broadcast on the internet at www.ncaachampionships.com.