Stanford men's tennis coach Paul Goldstein may be a little too critical of himself as he heads into his second year on the job. His reference point makes it difficult to clearly evaluate what he accomplished in his first year.
Goldstein, a 1998 graduate of Stanford, became the first player in NCAA history to be part of four national championship teams. He was a four-time All-American and the Cardinal won 104 of the 110 matches played during his college days.
"Last year we lost more games than I did in four years as a player," Goldstein said. "I like to think it's the coaching."
Stanford's place in college tennis history remains unparalleled, even though the school has not won a national title since 2000. The four years Goldstein played are considered special even in a program that has won 17 national titles and 17 conference championships.
The Cardinal opened the season with a pair of wins Wednesday, beating visiting Sacramento State, 6-0, in the morning, and visiting UC Davis, 6-0, in the afternoon.
Sophomore David Wilczynski played at the top of the ladder against the Hornets and sophomore Tom Fawcett led the way against the Aggies.
Fawcett saw all his action last year at the No. 1 spot, posting an overall 26-12 record, including a 7-9 mark against ranked opponents.
"I never thought a freshman would go wire-to-wire as the No. 1 player," Goldstein said. "He never did anything that made me think I needed to pull him out of there. He earned it."
Fawcett was an All-Pac-12 pick and earned the conference Freshman of the Year award. He finished the year ranked 35th nationally.
"I still thought there were areas for improvement and he took on some changes that meant short-term frustrations," Goldstein said. "It was good for long-term success."
Wilcynski showed his versatility last year, becoming the first Stanford player to perform, at least once, at every rung of the singles ladder. He played most of his matches at the No. 3 spot, recording a 22-14 overall mark.
Stanford climbed aboard a plane Thursday for a trip to New York and matches with Virginia Tech on Friday and either Columbia or Minnesota on Saturday.
Between 1995-98, seven Stanford players produced 17 All-American honors. The Cardinal has had eight players produce 16 All-American honors in the previous 12 years, including John Morrissey and Robert Stineman last year.
Goldstein won a Pac-12 title, sharing it with USC, in his first year and won 72 percent (18-7) of the time. Not bad for a first-year coach.
"We had a positive year last year," Goldstein said. "I'd like to get to the point where do even better."
Meeting the standards set by the 1998 squad that finished 28-0, with players who took turns playing No. 1 singles, would be hard for any team. That doesn't stop Goldstein, the NCAA singles runner-up that year, to teammate Bob Bryan, from trying.
"The one thing that struck me is how consuming it is," Goldstein said of his first year. "I love it. I'm fortunate to be in this position. It's a good fit for me and my family. This is more of who I am."
It's also been a fresh approach for the Cardinal. Goldstein follows in the footsteps of tennis legends Dick Gould and John Whitlinger and clearly shares their passion for Stanford tennis.
Seniors Nolan Paige and Maciek Romanowicz bolster the singles ladder that could include freshmen Sameer Kumar and Michael Genender.
Seniors Trey Strobel and Anthony Tsodikov are capable of playing anywhere in the lineup and both have solid experience in doubles play.
Juniors Brandon Sutter, Roy Lederman and Yale Goldberg give Stanford its best depth in recent memory. Add sophomore David Hsu, who compiled a 21-9 record, mostly out the No. 6 slot, and freshman Jack Barber and practice becomes competitive for everybody.
"We have confidence in all the guys and if it were up to me, I'd have eight singles matches," Goldstein said. "We have good senior leadership with Nolan and Maciek. They are playing well together and I like the idea of two seniors together."
Paige and Wilcynski had a 10-4 record as a doubles team last year. Romanowicz paired with Fawcett and went 18-4 a year ago.
The doubles point has become increasingly important and Goldstein has put together a solid doubles lineup that could help tip the balance to Stanford's favor in critical matches.
The Trojans, winners of five of the past seven NCAA titles, lost four seniors, but likely will remain competitive in the conference. UCLA is stronger with the return of Greg Brymer, who missed of all last year with an injury and California, anchored by four juniors and a sophomore, could have its best team yet.
Oregon and Washington continue to develop strong programs, giving the Pac-12 good balance. The four teams Stanford, California, USC and UCLA that made last year's NCAA tournament each won its first-round match. This season could produce an even deeper presence.
The next home match will be played on Saturday, Jan. 30 against San Diego State at the newly opened Broadway Tennis Center, a state-of-the-art facility in Burlingame.n