Entering his fifth season as University of San Diego men’s tennis coach, Brett Masi has laid the groundwork for a highly competitive program by emphasizing the value of hard work and building team cohesion.
“I put a standard that I want met every single day,” Masi said. “If it’s not met, then I let the guys know it and they have to come back the next day to try to uphold that standard.”
Over the last three years, his teams have made three consecutive second-round appearances in the NCAA Tournament and captured the WCC Championship in 2011. This level of consistency is what Masi says he envisioned for the program when he first arrived in 2009.
“The guys on the team have goals. They want to be a top-16 program. They want to be national champions,” Masi said. “At this point, when guys step out on the court or come to campus for the first time, they should know every year this is where we should at least get to.”
For nearly 40 years, USD has enjoyed considerable success with its men’s tennis program, attracting the best and brightest students from around the world, including two alumni who will be honored at separate events this spring.
Jose Luis “Tato” Noriega ’92 (BBA) is set to be USD’s newest inductee into the WCC Hall of Honor this Saturday in Las Vegas during the WCC Conference Basketball Tournament. Noriega (pictured, top right) is one of 10 inductees and this will be his third different Hall of Fame recognition, which includes a 2007 induction into USD’s Chet & Marguerite Pagni Family Athletics Hall of Fame.
On April 26, Andrew Rae ‘76 (BBA) will be inducted into USD’s athletics Hall of Fame during the university’s annual Alumni Honors program at the Joan B. Kroc Institute of Peace and Justice.
A native of Peru, Noriega is the only USD student-athlete to be named a four-time All-American. He compiled an impressive 138-30 record (100-15 in singles; 38-15 in doubles) and a 34-10 standing in ITA Grand Slam events in his collegiate career.
“It is a better feeling than the first time,” Noriega said. “The WCC feels even more local and to be recognized in front of the crowd at a basketball game is very motivating.”
Ed Collins coached USD’s men’s tennis for 18 years and remembers how Noriega’s approach separated himself from other players.
“He made the job very easy. He distinguished himself by not wasting a minute of the day both academically and in tennis,” Collins said. “He was very purposeful and was a great example for everybody else.”
A two-time NCAA Division II All-American (’74-’75) from Australia, Rae (pictured, left) helped lead USD to back-to-back national championships in singles (‘74-‘75), the NCAA Division II Doubles championship with fellow Aussie Russell Watts in 1974, and the NCAA Division II Doubles championship runner-up in 1975.
“I’ve won a lot of national titles and I’ve only had success with tennis, but this is a very emotional tribute that I’m taking,” Rae said. “I feel incredibly honored at this late stage of my life that I’m being recognized.”
Even at 62, Rae still actively participates in the Senior Circuit in Australia and attributes this relentless competitive spirit to the break he took while employed at Australian airline, Quantas.
“If I didn’t have some time away, I probably might have lost some interest, but I realized at the time when I wasn’t playing, I obviously loved the game,” Rae said.
Current players are certainly familiar with Noriega as his name and picture hangs from the inside of the Skip and Cindy Hogan Tennis Center, alongside Dean Jackson (2009), Pierrick Ysern (2005) and Scott Lipton (1980).
“If you’re anybody who is a competitor and wants to accomplish things and is goal-orientated, Noriega is up there with the most career wins at USD along with Dean Jackson who are tied at 100,” Masi said.
As for Rae, Masi has already reached out and has scheduled a time for him to speak with the team as they prepare for the April 23-26 West Coast Conference Championship Tournament in San Diego.
“Anytime someone is an alum, I want [the players] to meet each other and get to know them,” Masi said. “It is important for the guys to see where legacy starts and I hope when [the players] come back 15-20 years from now that the guys give them that same due respect when they played here.”
— Michael Lu ’12