The final month of
fifth-year senior Vincent Nguyen's tenure at UC San Diego turned out to be
about as good as it gets. The captain and singles starter on the Men's Tennis
saw his team finish up its regular season undefeated (20-0), earn a trip to the
NCAA Division II Championships in Florida and, despite suffering a loss in the
round of 16, close out the campaign ranked 10th in the nation. A few weeks
after the conclusion of his competitive career, Nguyen was not only named
UCSD's Outstanding Male Senior Student-Athlete but was selected to receive a
prestigious NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship. A three-year member and former
chairman of the Triton Athletes' Council, Nguyen graduated earlier this month
with a degree in biochemistry and cell biology, sporting a 3.81 cumulative GPA.
He plans to start medical school in August at Temple University in
Philadelphia. Amidst all of the hoopla that's come his way, Nguyen found time
to talk about the recognition, his team and the UCSD student-athlete experience.
Male Student-Athlete of the Year for 2010-11. How did it feel when you heard
your name called at the 2011 Athletics Recognition Dinner?
felt some nervousness building up as I slowly realized that I was about to be
called up based on the activities that were being listed off. When I was
finally called to the podium, I was in a bit of shock in front of all the
lights and people. It's nice to be able to represent my team with the award,
because we had an unbelievable year and I love the guys-they're like my
Q-Talk a little about
your career arc as a student-athlete at UCSD-what do you think allowed you to
reach that pinnacle?
made the team as a freshman walk-on, so being able to start and contribute to
the team for the next four years has been a real ride. I wouldn't have reached
my potential without the intense instruction and mentoring from Coach (Eric)
Steidlmayer. He really cares for his players and only wants to help us improve.
My older teammates also served as great role models and taught me how to find a
balance between school, socializing, and sport. I learned to carry the
discipline and work ethic developed on court to other parts of my life, which
surely helped me reach my academic and extracurricular goals.
Q-Before you stepped
on the tennis court for the first time this year, did you have any idea that
your team would eventually finish the regular season 20-0?
through the season without losing a match literally felt like I was living a
dream from February to May. I knew we were working very hard on our fitness and
had competed against a variety of opponents in the fall season, so I was
confident we were going to do well. Since we didn't graduate anyone from the
roster from last season's roster, we were only looking up from our 12-11
record. Still, it was pretty surreal to win so many close matches this year-a
bunch of 5-4 and 6-3 matches where it came down to one guy, sometimes me, and
we were able to stay perfect.
obviously a lot of special moments throughout the year. What moment stands out
as the most meaningful to you?
many guys on the team would agree that beating Barry University 5-4, ranked No.
2 at the time and defending NCAA runner-ups, right before finals week in winter
quarter was the most epic moment of the year. We came out firing with nothing
to lose and went up 2-1 after doubles. There was a vibe on the courts that I
think we all felt-each guy on our roster was playing really well. Erik
(Elliott) beat the No. 1-ranked player in the country in straight sets, and
literally seconds later I clinched the match at No. 4 singles. We have it all
on tape and it's something I'm sure we will carry with us for the rest of our
Q-In the final ITA
Division II national poll, UCSD was ranked No. 10, its highest ranking since
2007. Do you believe that represents what you and the team accomplished this
personally don't like to scrutinize rankings, but I think our No.10 ranking is
a fair representation of this season's success. We beat all the teams we were
supposed to beat that were ranked below us, and we also had nice wins over top
schools like Barry. I think it's nice for the guys to carry that ranking over
to next year, to really train hard this summer and exceed expectations like we
did this year.
Q-This was not a team
that was necessarily expected to be this good at the start of the season. Why
do you think it was able to play above expectations and was there a particular
point during the season when you started thinking, "hey, we might be pretty
NGUYEN-We had a
decent season last year, and since we didn't graduate anyone, we all figured
that we would be at least decent this year. After the fall season, I really had
no extraordinary expectations for the regular season. We were training hard,
but nothing really out of the ordinary before winter break. When we returned
from the holidays, Coach started running us into the ground right away. I
really attribute our success this season to the consistent and intense track
work we put in over the course of the season. After we beat Barry, Hawaii
Pacific and Lafayette the week before finals in winter quarter, I was riding a
high and was confident telling anyone that we were pretty good.
Q-The team reached
the NCAA Championships but bowed out in the round of 16. Was that a bittersweet
ending to the season and what was the message Coach Eric Steidlmayer imparted
after that final match?
was definitely bittersweet since we came into the Championships with such
confidence-but since the match ended pretty quickly, it wasn't too excruciating
of a loss. Coach kept the message
short and sweet-we were beaten by a better team, and we should look to train even
harder over the summer to prepare for next season.
Q-Speaking of Coach
Steidlmayer, how much influence do you feel he had on your collegiate success
and what are his primary attributes as a coach?
had an immense influence on my success both on and off the court. He isn't
afraid to tell you "how it is," which I really respect because he only wants
his players to improve. I remember one of his quotes I heard early on in my
career: "Don't make excuses, find solutions." His no-nonsense, hard-working
attitude has made a huge impact on my personal growth, and I think all the guys
on the team would agree.
Q-You focused on
singles as a senior but have also played doubles throughout your career. What
do you like about each and which do you prefer?
NGUYEN-I am definitely a singles player at heart. I love the individual
nature of tennis and have found that I perform better alone. When things go
right, I reap the benefits, but when they go wrong, I can only blame myself. I
like the cut-and-dry nature of singles and think it's had a huge impact on my
Still, I secretly love doubles. The game is so much faster-paced and it's an
interesting challenge to work with a teammate to beat a mutual opponent. I
never developed the doubles skills in my junior career to be a natural starter
in doubles, but I still loved every chance I got to play, especially with my
former roommate Brandon Stevenson.
Austin West, said that Erik Elliott is the toughest player on your team to
compete against. Do you agree? What other teammates would be difficult
match-ups for you and why?
personally hate playing Erik because he is especially good at capitalizing on
my weaknesses. I agree with Austin that he's the toughest on the team-he is playing
No. 1 for a reason. He takes the ball so early and has such great ball-striking
skills that you're always playing defense against him. Normally, I don't get
fazed playing defense but it's tough to keep it up when you only see balls
flying past you.
Austin and Max Jiganti are two tough guys I definitely get fired up about
playing because they both have great court sense and are strategically solid.
They both also compete like crazy, so I know I'm in for a dogfight every time.
Q-West also said that
you were the most competitive player on the team. How does that make you feel?
You also have a history of consistently playing the longest matches. Why does
that happen so often and do you feel you have an edge when a match goes longer?
NGUYEN-That is interesting-I
think Austin is the most competitive J It's a nice compliment,
but I think everyone on the team competes extremely hard and that our universal
competitiveness had a ton to do with our success this season. I unfortunately
make everyone wait past dusk to watch me play. I just like making people wait.
In all seriousness, I tend to play long points and don't mind taking my time to
recover between points. The longer the match goes, the more confident I get. I
like playing under pressure and always feel fitter than the other guy.
Q-Growing up, or even
now, do you have a favorite professional tennis player? If you could take
specific skills from individual players, what are some that, in your opinion,
would produce a great hybrid?
favorite player growing up was definitely Rafael Nadal. I love his work ethic,
intensity, and personality both on and off the court. He can be a real goof but
is 110% focused on improving his game and doing his best all the time. I would
take Ivo Karlovic's (7-foot monster) serve, Roger Federer's silky yet potent
forehand, Novak Djokovic's rock solid backhand, and John McEnroe's volleys. I
would also steal Federer's footwork-he is always on balance!
Q-You're a San Jose
native with five years in San Diego on your resume. What is the biggest
difference between the two regions? What do you like most about San Diego?
love San Jose. The area holds a special place in my heart since I was born and
raised there. My parents unfortunately decided to move a bit further northeast
to Dublin, but I still call San Jose home. Silicon Valley in general is a bit
slower paced than San Diego. People don't drive as crazily up north. People in
SoCal tend to be a bit friendlier and happier at first glance. Maybe it has to
do with the perfect weather we are blessed with.
accepted and are planning to attend medical school at Temple University in the
fall. Was this the objective from the time you entered UCSD? What are your
definitely didn't see myself going to medical school when I started at UCSD. I
just wanted to make the tennis team and see how I'd fit into the college
atmosphere. With more exposure to the health field, I found that I enjoyed and
was pretty good at talking with patients. I've been watching a lot of
neurosurgery recently, and it's hard not to be inspired. Still, I'm going to
see how I feel during third and fourth-year rotations for long term career
Q-You were recently
awarded at prestigious NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship, one of three UCSD
student-athletes to receive that honor in 2010-11. How did it feel to cap off
your collegiate career being recognized like that on a national level?
I couldn't feel more
honored to have been selected for such a prestigious award. The scholarship
money definitely helps a bunch with the increasing costs of medical education.
It's a privilege to be able to represent my team and university on a national
scale with the award. It's especially cool for UCSD to have three athletes
(Jessica Ferguson, Kelly Fogarty & Nguyen) this year be selected for the
award. I couldn't have asked for anything more personally gratifying than being
selected for that award to finish off my career. To see the blur of hard work
and fun culminate in such a special award like this is remarkable.
Previous Q & A Articles
Patti Gerckens (Softball) May 26, 2011
Blake Tagmyer (Baseball) May 11, 2011
Theresa Richards (Women's Track & Field) April 27, 2011
Austin West (Men's Tennis) April 17, 2011
Drew Lawyer (Men's Crew) April 11, 2011
Keith Okasaki (Men's Golf) March 26, 2011
Matt Herman (Men's Swimming & Diving) March 12, 2011
Hanalei Crowell (Women's Water Polo) March 5, 2011
Camille Gaito (Softball) February 23, 2011
Tim Shibuya (Baseball) February 8, 2011
Carl Eberts (Men's Volleyball) January 31, 2011
Neda Nguyen (Women's Swimming & Diving) January 24, 2011
Amy Bianchini (Fencing) January 14, 2011
Lauren Freidenberg (Women's Basketball) January 3, 2011
Christian Hatch (Men's Basketball) December 24, 2010
Blake Langland (Men's Swimming & Diving) November 27, 2010
Sarah McTigue (Women's Soccer) November 8, 2010
Brandon Yee (Men's Soccer) October 11, 2010
Bryce Madsen (Men's Water Polo) September 23, 2010
Annette Ilg (Women's Soccer) September 9, 2010
Ricci Luyties (Women's Volleyball Head Coach) August 24, 2010
Kevin Messey (Head Athletics Trainer) July 7, 2010
Dan O'Brien (Baseball Head Coach) June 18, 2010
Christine Merrill (Women's Track & Field) June 14, 2010
Vance Albitz (Baseball) May 11, 2010
Erik Elliott (Men's Tennis) May 3, 2010
Kelly Fogarty (Women's Track & Field) April 23, 2010
Liz LaPlante (Women's Tennis Head Coach) April 15, 2010
Kirby St. John (Baseball) March 24, 2010
Dan Perdew (Men's Swimming) February 28, 2010
Calvin Ross (Men's Volleyball) February 20, 2010
Nicole Saari (Softball) February 4, 2010
Brad Kreutzkamp (Women's Water Polo Head Coach) January 18, 2010
Tyler Acevedo (Men's Basketball) January 4, 2010
Dr. Cliff Kubiak (UCSD's Faculty Athletic Rep) December 18, 2009
Chelsea Carlisle (Women's Basketball) December 9, 2009
Carianne Cunningham (Women's Swimming) November 23, 2009
Elena Inouye (Cross Country) November 6, 2009
David Morton (Men's Water Polo) October 28, 2009
Juan Pablo Carillo (Men's Swimming) October 19, 2009
Sara Spaventa (Women's Soccer) October 10, 2009
Karen Reis (Women's Volleyball) October 2, 2009
Daniel Pavitt (Men's Soccer) September 23, 2009
Daniel Anderson (Cross Country) September 11, 2009
Peter Gresham (Men's Water Polo) September 2, 2009
Alexia Zatarain (Women's Soccer) August 24, 2009
Elaine Chen (Women's Volleyball) August 12, 2009
Jared Kukura (Men's Soccer) July 30, 2009
Dawn Lee (Former Women's Soccer Standout) July 8, 2009
Rob Mamula (Director of Athletic Performance) June 18, 2009
Garrett Imeson (Baseball) June 8, 2009
Leon Baham (Men's Track & Field) May 21, 2009
Kristyn Lesovsky (Softball) May 8, 2009
Kazumi Negishi (Men's Tennis) May 5, 2009
Laiah Blue (Women's Track & Field) April 16, 2009
Ryan Andre (Men's Crew) April 2, 2009
Josh Tanner (Baseball) March 24, 2009
Anju Shimura (Women's Swimming) March 7, 2009
Stephanie Bocian (Women's Water Polo) February 20, 2009
Lauren Chastain (Softball) February 5, 2009
A.J. Maulhardt (Men's Basketball) January 28, 2009
Annette Ilg (Women's Basketball) January 22, 2009
Steven Hardy (Men's Swimming) January 13, 2009
Frank Fritsch (Men's Volleyball) January 5, 2009