By Matt Stiver
The TCU men's tennis team entered last season just hoping to improve. There were no upperclassmen on the roster. Both the head coach and the assistant coach were in their first season. In 1997-98, they lost more times than they won.
Things are different now. The men finished last season ranked No. 22 in the country with a record of 14-4. They have seven upperclassmen, two of which are ranked in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association top 100. Their head coach begins his second year.
"I thought we had a great year," head coach Michael Center said. "I thought that by the end of the year we had gotten the most out of ourselves. We lost some tough matches, but we won some tough matches. We set the tone that we were going to be a team to be reckoned with. It is up to us to prove it (this year)."
Junior Scott Eddins said the team will play well.
"I think we're unreal," Eddins said.
The Frogs return seven juniors, all of whom played last spring.
"We've got a lot of guys back," Center said. "It's going to be up to the core group, the guys that have been through a lot of tough matches, to lead the team."
Of the seven that return, the most important will be junior Esteban Carril who racked up several awards last year: 1998 ITA Clay Court champion, All-American and Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year. Carril enters the season ranked No. 4 in the nation. He finished with a 29-9 record last year and reached the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament.
When asked the strengths of his team, Center said Carril is among them.
"Obviously. Esteban is a returning All-American," Center said. "He's one of the best players in the country, if not the best."
True freshman Jose "Pepe" Mendoza and redshirt freshman Jimmy Haney will provide the Frogs with depth, he said.
"I think we have more bodies, which will give us more options," Center said.
Eddins also listed the new players in his assessment of the team.
"We're so deep," Eddins said. "Last year we had eight players and now we have (10)."
In addition to Carril, juniors Trace Fielding, Martin Jirak, Eddins, Petr Koula, Sebastian Iannariello and Justin Gagnon all return. At No. 96, Fielding enters the season ranked by the ITA for the first time in his college career.
Eddins qualified for and participated in the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows, NY, earlier this month. He finished the spring a perfect 12-0 at the No. 4 in duel matches.
"It was fun," Eddins said. "It was an opportunity like no other."
Despite their returning lettermen, Center said the team also has areas in which to improve.
Center said his players need to raise their level of play this season.
"I don't think we have enough guys that have proven that they can be top 100 players," Center said. "We feel that we have some good players, but we need guys that are ready to step up."
When the Frogs take a look around at their surroundings this season, they will find some of their neighbors moved out. They knew last season eight teams would leave. Center said he does not think the eight defections make the WAC a weak conference.
"It's still strong," Center said. "It's probably not as strong because we lost some good teams, but I think the best teams (stayed). (In) SMU, Fresno State and us, I think the best teams in the WAC last year stayed."
"I think it's about the same," Eddins said. "The teams we lost aren't the stronger teams. I think the only team we lost with a real good tennis program was San Diego State."
The Frogs lost their first match at the WAC Championships last spring. Center said he does not expect a repeat.
"I think we can win the WAC," Center said. "It'll be very disappointing if we don't."
SMU handed the Frogs their only home loss last year (5-2). They also knocked them out of the NCAA Tournament (4-3). Eddins said he does not think that will happen again.
"I think we're better this year," Eddins said. "They lost their best player, and that makes them weaker. It was really close last year, and we're stronger."
By Paul Freelend
When Volley Frog's head coach Sandy Troudt arrived at TCU in the fall of 1995,she brought with her not only a tradition of winning but also another widely observed volleyball tradition.
"It has been tradition in my programs to have a home tournament," Troudt said. "It's a good chance for us to play good, quality competition at home. When I was hired here, there wasn't even a volleyball program. I knew this would be necessary in order to grow as a program."
In this, the fourth year of the TCU Invitational, the Volley Frogs have invited Colgate University from Hamilton, NY; Villanova University from Villanova, Penn.; Stephen F. Austin State University from Nachodages, TX; and the University of North Texas from Denton.
Troudt said she wanted to bring in teams with different playing styles as opposed to the rest of the Volley Frogs' schedule.
"When we scheduled these teams, we were seeking different teams than we usually play," Troudt said. "In Colgate and Villanova we get to play teams from conferences that we, as a program, have never played before."
The Volley Frogs open the TCU Invitational at 7 p.m. Friday against the SFA Ladyjacks. The Ladyjacks are 3-5 on the season with wins over University of Texas-Pan American, Louisiana Tech University and University of Texas-El Paso. They have also lost to established Division I programs Southern Methodist University and Purdue University.
TCU and SFA have met three times prior to this meeting with the Ladyjacks taking two of the three matches.
"Stephen F. Austin is a team that is very opportunistic," Troudt said. "If they see a team has a weakness, they will go after it with everything they've got. That's just the kind of team they are. Year in and year out, they are very competitive in the Southland Conference."
TCU will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday morning when they face off against the Colgate Red Raiders of the Patriot League. Colgate is 5-4 in their 1999 campaign.
The Red Raiders and Volley Frogs have never met in the history of either program.
"We don't know a whole lot about Colgate," Troudt said. "They are not quite as physical as some of the teams we have faced in terms of height, vertical jump and other things. They have good ball control, though, and they run their offense very well."
The Volley Frogs' final matchup in the invite will be against the Villanova Wildcats from the Big East Conference. The Wildcats are 2-5 on the year with victories over Buffalo and New Orleans. TCU has never played Villanova in volleyball.
"Villanova is a lot better than its record shows," Troudt said. "They have lost to some tough Division I teams like Maryland, Virginia Tech and Kentucky.
"Their middle blockers really lead the way for them. We don't know much about them either but we'll get a chance to scout them before we play them."
Also joining the competition are the UNT Eagles. The Eagles will play in the invitational but will not face off with the Volley Frogs by mutual agreement between Troudt and UNT head coach Donna Martin.
"We had originally planned on scheduling North Texas for the TCU Invite but we decided to move our match to September 1 instead," Troudt said.
Play opens at 11 a.m. Friday morning and the last matches begin at 7 p.m. Saturday night.
Troudt said she is looking for a positive performance from the team, like they had in the Kansas Invitational last weekend.
"I think our chances are excellent this weekend," Troudt said. "We need to look for consistency in our execution to be successful. We can't afford to be excellent in one game and not play well at all in the next game.
"Overall, though, I feel good about our chances with the teams that we have here this weekend."
By Todd J. Shriber
Silent but deadly is a phrase that can be used when describing Navy SEALS wreaking havoc by night in a foreign land.
And like a Navy SEAL, TCU defensive end Aaron Schobel is silent but deadly on the football field. Schobel is more substance-over-style on the football field. He lets his play do the talking, not his mouth. Flashy is not a way of describing Schobel. Calm, cool and collected might be good ways of describing him, but opposing offenses probably would not agree.
Opponents on the offensive side of the ball might describe Schobel as a one-man wrecking crew given his play since arriving at TCU in 1996 out of Columbus High in Columbus, Texas. Schobel, who is joined at TCU by his brother Matt and cousin Bo, redshirted in '96 but cracked the starting lineup in the second game of the '97 campaign and has been on a torrid quarterback sack pace ever since.
Horned Frogs' defensive coordinator Gary Patterson said Schobel's role in TCU's defensive scheme is not any different than any other defensive end, but that Schobel just makes plays when needed.
"He has a lot of natural talent," Patterson said. "He makes plays other people can't. We look to him to pressure the quarterback because he's what you'd call a 'no block player.'"
Given the fact that it is so hard for opposing linemen to contain Schobel, it is no wonder he is now within striking distance of TCU's career sack record. He entered the season needing only nine sacks to unseat Royal West as the leader, and after adding two in the season opener against Arizona, Schobel could break the record as soon as this year.
He said the record would be nice, but it is not the most important thing to him right now.
"The bottom line is winning games, if I can't get seven sacks in two years, that's pitiful," Schobel said.
At 6 feet 4 inches and 244 lbs., Schobel is actually considered small by the standards of today's defensive ends, but he does not let that get in the way of his dominance on the field.
When asked about his size, he simply says, "I'm small?" with a stunned look on his face.
Schobel said he likes to use his quickness to help on the field.
One would think Schobel would have a post-sack ritual a la Warren Sapp or Reggie White of the NFL, but his demeanor does not seem to permit that. Patterson said it has to do with experience.
"Aaron doesn't do those things because he acts like he's been there before," he said. "The guy who scores his first touchdown celebrates a lot, but the guy who scores his 20th doesn't. Aaron lets his play do the talking."
Patterson said Schobel's play has spoken loudly in last year's game against Rice and against Arizona this year.
"Aaron was all over the field against Rice's option last year," he said. "Against Arizona he had something like 10 tackles, two sacks and a safety. I'm sure there were a lot of people watching the game on TV saying, 'Who is number 14 in the TCU uniform?'"
Schobel says he likes playing against teams like Arizona and other high-profile programs because "those teams give us a challenge and make us play our best."
He was a second team All-WAC selection last year and is looking for bigger and better things this year, but he knows what is really important.
"If we lose and I play badly, it's like the worst feeling in the world," he said. "If we win and I play badly, that's fine because everything else will take care of itself. I just want to win football games."
When asked to describe himself, Schobel says with a sheepish grin: "I'm a sweetheart. I'm shy off the field."
There's probably some coaches around the WAC that wish he would be a bit more shy on the field.
The TCU Daily Skiff © 1998, 1999 Credits