Greg Patton, UC Irvine's men's tennis coach, should be relieved that the Anteaters don't have a football team. If they did, the football team might have gotten to Trevor Kronemann first.
Kronemann, a sophomore, doesn't exactly look like a tennis player. He looks more like a tight end.
But Kronemann, who is 6-feet 3 1/2-inches tall and weighs 230 pounds, is a major reason for the Anteaters' success this season. The team, which will open play in the Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. championships at Las Cruces, N.M., Friday, is 21-6. Kronemann, the No. 2 singles player, is 23-13 overall and 18-8 in dual matches.
Kronemann, who moved from 51st to 34th in the most recent national rankings, has beaten second-ranked Scott Melville of USC, third-ranked Andrew Sznajder of Pepperdine, 11th-ranked Greg Failla of Cal State Long Beach and 33rd-ranked Patrick Galbraith of UCLA.
Kronemann and Mike Briggs are the ninth-ranked doubles team in the nation.
"Trevor comes on like Rambo, firing bazookas at you," Patton said. "He just doesn't know how hard he hits the ball."
When Kronemann was younger, he did play football and also soccer. When he lived in Wisconsin and Minnesota, he even played ice hockey for a while. But tennis, which he started playing when he was 3, was always his main sport. And when his family moved to Bradenton, Fla., when Kronemann was 9, he enrolled in Nick Bollettieri's Tennis Academy and concentrated on tennis.
Patton first noticed Kronemann when he was a high school senior playing on the junior national team. Kronemann was being recruited by Tennessee, but he was interested in going to college in California.
Kronemann and Patton say that most California coaches were worried that this hulking player was too heavy to succeed at the college level.
"Some of them thought I was crazy," Patton said. "But he has so much talent and a real charisma on the court. For a coach, it's a challenge."
Last season, as a freshman, Kronemann earned NCAA All-American honors by reaching the round of 16 at the NCAA tournament.
But earlier this year, Patton was concerned about Kronemann's physical condition. Last fall, Kronemann suffered from nagging injuries such as pulled back muscles because of the extra weight he was carrying. Patton was concerned that he might not last through three sets.
Kronemann started the season at 250 pounds, but a loss to Patrick McEnroe of Stanford opened his eyes.
"I knew I was out of shape," he said. "I just wasn't playing well. I could have beat him."
So Kronemann went on a strict diet and has dropped 20 pounds in the last four weeks.
During that period, he took over the No. 1 singles spot for a few weeks while Mark Kaplan was sidelined with an illness. Kronemann started playing what he said is the best tennis of his life.
"I'm a lazy person, I guess," Kronemann said. "I never see what I can do until I actually do it. Now I'm beginning to see where tennis can take me."
There is one unpleasant side effect of Kronemann's new svelte look. Until now, his teammates had called Kronemann "Tank," an appropriate nickname for the power player with a lethal forehand.
But now they have taken to calling slimmed-down Kronemann "Tinker."
"I don't know about that nickname," Kronemann said. "I think I like 'Tank' better."
The Anteaters are seeking their seventh PCAA tennis title this weekend.
Irvine is well in front of the rest of the conference. UC Santa Barbara--which lost to the Anteaters, 7-2, Tuesday--is in second place with a 16-7 record. San Jose State is 13-13 and Fresno State is 12-14.
Irvine has won the conference championship five times--in 1981, '83, '84, '85 and '87--since Patton took over as coach.
"When I started (in 1980), we were fifth in the conference," Patton said. "And now we're fifth in the nation."
That's the highest ranking ever for the Anteaters, who moved up from No. 6. Stanford, Louisiana State, USC and Pepperdine are ahead of Irvine.
The conference finals will be Sunday at 1 p.m.
While the men's team headed east to New Mexico, the women's tennis team flew west to Hawaii for the PCAA women's championships at the University of Hawaii.
San Diego State, ranked 19th in the nation, is favored to win its third straight league title. Irvine is 18-6 and unranked.
After a two-week hiatus, Irvine's crew will return to action Sunday in the Newport Regatta. Other schools competing include Orange Coast College, USC, UCLA, Cal State Long Beach, Loyola Marymount and the University of San Diego.
The first race is scheduled for 8 a.m. at the North Lido Channel off Pacific Coast Highway in Newport Beach.
The Bren Center is the site of the NCAA West Regional men's volleyball selection tournament, which opens tonight.
Four Western Intercollegiate Volleyball Assn. teams will be competing for an at-large berth in the NCAA semifinals in Fort Wayne, Ind., May 6-7. USC, the top-ranked team in the nation, automatically advanced by winning the WIVA title.
Tonight, second-seeded UC Santa Barbara will play No. 3 UCLA, the defending national champion, at 6 p.m. and top-seeded Hawaii will play No. 4 Pepperdine at 8 p.m.
The winners of tonight's matches will meet in Saturday's final at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets, available at the Bren Center and through Ticketron, are $6 and $3.
Profits will benefit Irvine's team, which finished the season with a 7-18 overall record and won the Southern California Volleyball Conference championship by defeating UC San Diego last weekend.
The UCI Track and Field Invitational will be held this weekend, with the women's competition Saturday and the men's Sunday.
Headlining the women's invitational are Bonnie Dasse, competing in the shotput, and Ruth Wysocki, Regina Jacobs and Kerri Zaleski in the 800 meters.
In the men's competition, Brazil's Tom Hintnaus leads the pole vault field, Nigerian record-holder Ade Olukoju will compete in the shotput and Canadian national record-holder Kyle McDuffy will be in the long jump.
Four Irvine track athletes qualified for the NCAA track championships at last weekend's Mt. SAC Relays.
Senior Gus Quinonez qualified for the 10,000 meters with a time of 29 minutes 9.4 seconds. Junior Beth McGrann, running the 10,000 meters for the first time, qualified in that event with a time of 33:55.0. And Judy McLaughlin and Buffy Rabbitt qualified in the 1,500 meters. McLaughlin, a senior, ran a personal best of 4:18.03, and Rabbitt, a sophomore, finished in 4:18.38.
The NCAA championships are scheduled for June 1-4 in Eugene, Ore.
Bill Mulligan, Irvine basketball coach, has signed Troy Whiteto, a 6-2 guard from Santa Monica College, to a letter of intent. Whiteto, who did not play basketball last season, averaged 8 points and 4.2 assists in 1986-87 at Santa Monica. . . . No. 3 singles player Richard Lubner suffered a cut above his left eye when he was hit by a racket Monday during practice. But he came back Tuesday and defeated Scott Morse, 6-2, 6-3, and will play this weekend. . . . Lubner is 46th in the current national rankings. No. 1 singles player Mark Kaplan advanced to No. 24. . . . Irvine freshman Mike Suckling finished second in last week's Nevada Reno Golf Invitational, shooting 222 with rounds of 70, 73 and 79. . . . The Irvine baseball team has dropped four games in a row. It was swept in a three-game series by Cal State Fullerton and lost Tuesday to San Diego State.