By Craig Pearson
TERRE HAUTE — When the Missouri Valley Conference released its all-century tennis team earlier this summer, it was a chance for Indiana State men’s tennis coach Jonas Piibor to reminisce about the days when he and his cohorts took the Sycamores’ program to its highest point — a national ranking of 17th in the nation in 2000.
Piibor, a two-time No. 2 singles champ and one-time No. 1 singles champ in the MVC, is joined by three of his former teammates as well as former ISU coach Brian Boland, who has built a national power at Virginia since his departure from his alma mater in 2001. Boland had a 122-33 record at ISU, beginning his tenure in 1996 and twice taking the Sycamores past the first round in the NCAA Tournament.
Three former teammates of Piibor joined him on the all-century team, which was to celebrate the MVC’s centennial year of 2007. Stefan Hirn was two-time No. 2 singles champ and graduated in 2002. Vedran Vidovic played from 2000 to 2003, taking one No. 1 singles title. Lovre Brajkovic was also a one-time MVC champ at No. 1 singles. The fifth Sycamore player recognized was Lars Nordmark, an ISU standout from 1983 to 1986.
Piibor said he was proud to be included on the list of all-time MVC greats , which includes seven Wichita State players. ISU became the Shockers’ nemesis during Boland’s years as coach as the Sycamores put together a MVC winning streak of 57 matches that began during Piibor’s first season at ISU.
“Obviously, I’m proud to be on that list. It shows the result of the hard work that you put in,” said Piibor, who is still busy recruiting as the 2008 spring season approaches. “For me, it’s a nice recognition to be on that list.”
Piibor’s team finished 11-12 last season in his second year as head coach, but his young team reached the MVC tournament semifinals after winning eight of its last 11 matches.
The clear goal is to get the program back to where it was when he played, Piibor said earlier this week.
Boland, whose Cavaliers reached the NCAA quarterfinals this spring, was also mentioned by the MVC for his outstanding achievements as coach.
“That was really nice to have Brian Boland on the list,” Piibor said.
“To have that Indiana State affiliation with him being now at Virginia ... he’s done a great job there. It’s just a matter of time before he wins a national title at Virginia. Maybe he’ll win more than one.”
Boland is confident Piibor can achieve his goal of getting ISU back on top of the MVC and back into the college rankings.
“He was a great player back in the day when he played for me,” Boland said. “I have a great deal of admiration for his work ethic and passion for the game He’s doing everything he can to get Indiana State back to a high level. I’m certainly proud of everything he’s ever done.”
Something Piibor was a big part of creating a merciless yet fun atmosphere at the Duane Klueh Tennis Complex.
“The main part is we were very competitive. Every moment on and off the courts we were very competitive. We fed off each other and that was the main thing,” Piibor said of his playing days. “That’s something I’m working on now to create a competitive atmosphere.”
Craig Pearson can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.