Elon Phoenix Tennis Camps
Director of Tennis & Head Men's Coach
A six-time conference Coach of the Year, Michael Leonard is in his 15th season as the Elon University Director of Tennis and Head Men’s Tennis Coach in 2018-19.
Leonard’s teams have amassed an impressive 212-129 (.622) record in dual-match action during his tenure. Although the Colonial Athletic Association does not have a conference season, Leonard has guided his teams to a 9-2 mark against CAA teams in regular season play after finishing with an astounding 70-16 (.814) conference record in the Southern Conference from 2006-14. For his efforts, Leonard was named the SoCon Coach of the Year in 2006, 2007, 2011, 2013 and 2014. He also won CAA Coach of the Year in 2016 after guiding the Phoenix to a 17-6 record and a spot in the CAA Semifinals.
With a veteran group in 2017-18 comprised of a redshirt senior, six juniors, one sophomore and two freshmen, Elon went 16-8 with its sixth-straight trip to at least the conference tournament semifinals. During the year, the Phoenix rattled off seven-straight victories, which is the longest streak since Elon won seven straight during the 2016 spring season. On Feb. 18, 2018, Leonard picked up his 200th head-coaching victory with a 7-0 sweep of Appalachian State. At season's end, Felipe Sarrasague was named the CAA's Player of the Year after going 14-8 in singles with a 12-8 mark at No. 1 while also posting a 13-7 doubles record. With the major award, Sarrasague became the fourth Player of the Year honoree in Elon's Division I history, all of which have come in a six-season span going back to 2013. Mario Paccini was also named a First Team All-CAA singles honoree and he and Neal Port took home First Team All-CAA doubles honors.
His 13th season with the program in 2016-17 saw the Phoenix post a 12-12 record with a fifth-straight trip to the semifinals of the conference tournament. Though struggling out of the gate, Elon responded nicely down the stretch to win its final three regular-season matches and earned a win in the CAA Quarterfinals over Hofstra to finish the season at .500. During the season, Leonard took his team to Hawaii for a study abroad trip over spring break. While on the trip, the Phoenix played a match against the Rainbow Warriors and earned a 6-1 victory over Hawaii. After the season, Sarrasague was named First Team All-CAA in singles while Chris Humphreys and Petar Tomic picked up First Team All-CAA in doubles. Both Paccini and Salvador Mijares earned Second Team All-CAA singles nods and Mijares paired with Port to earn Second Team All-CAA doubles honors.
Elon completed the 2015-16 campaign with a 17-6 overall record while earning the No. 3 seed in the 2016 CAA Men’s Tennis Championship. The 17 wins marked the third time in the last four seasons under Leonard’s guidance the Phoenix amassed 17 or more dual victories in a campaign. Then a freshman, Sarrasague was named the 2016 CAA Rookie of the Year, becoming the fifth player in program history to earn the honor with all five Rookie/Freshman of the Year awards coming under Leonard’s watch. Elon also placed six player on the All-CAA teams while Leonard was named the 2016 CAA Coach of the Year.
The Phoenix put together a 10-13 record in the program's first season in the Colonial Athletic Association in 2014-15. Stefan Fortmann became Elon's second player in program history to earn Conference Player of the Year honors. The Phoenix placed three on the All-Conference teams as well as earning Player of the Week honors three times.
Leonard continued his success with the men’s tennis team finishing off the 2013-14 season with a 19-5 season record and leading the Phoenix to its highest national ranking in program history (No. 39). Elon opened the 2014 season with one of the greatest upsets in collegiate tennis history, as the Phoenix topped seventh-ranked Duke, 4-3, in Durham. His team went undefeated in the Southern Conference at 9-0, including an impressive 7-1 home record. Elon went into the SoCon Tournament as the overall top seed and came out with a championship after beating Chattanooga, Appalachian State and Furman. Leonard took his team into the NCAA Tournament where they dropped a hard-fought match to second-seeded Tennessee. Individually, Leonard helped Cameron Silverman earn SoCon Player of the Year honors and qualify for an appearance in the NCAA singles tournament for the second-straight year en route to a national singles ranking that reached as high as No. 19. Additionally, Fortmann, Jordan Kaufman, Robert Lindgren, Brian Kowalski and Juan Madrid all earned all-league laurels.
Leonard led the Phoenix to the league’s regular season title for the fourth time in seven years in 2013. Elon earned the top seed in the SoCon Men’s Tennis Championship, advancing all the way to the title match. Leonard led the Phoenix to 17 victories in 2013 and a final ITA national ranking of No. 64. Leonard helped Silverman to SoCon Player of the Year honors, as Silverman earned a national singles ranking as high as No. 21 during the year and qualified for the NCAA singles tournament, becoming the first player in Elon history to win a first-round match. Silverman and Fortmann also earned a doubles ranking as high as No. 22 during the season and made an appearance in the NCAA doubles tournament. Including Silverman and Fortmann, Leonard had a total of five student-athletes earn all-league honors in 2013, including Kaufman, Madrid and Lindgren.
Leonard led one of his players to SoCon Freshman of the Year honors for the second straight season in 2012, as Fortmann ended the year with a 16-7 mark. Silverman followed up his rookie of the year campaign with a 17-7 record as a sophomore on his way to first-team all-conference honors. In all, Leonard had four players earn all-league accolades.
His 2011 squad went 18-7 overall and claimed the SoCon crown with a 9-1 ledger in league play. The Phoenix opened the year by upsetting No. 56 South Carolina by a 5-2 score. With a record of 6-5 after an extremely challenging early slate, Leonard's team reeled off eight consecutive victories and won 12 of its final 14 matches of the season. The Phoenix peaked at No. 65 in the ITA rankings during the year. The 2011 team boasted the league freshman of the year in Silverman while teammate Alberto Rojas earned the league's Don Bunch/Buddy Hartsell Sportsmanship Award. Leonard took home SoCon Coach of the Year honors thanks to his team's performance.
With a young team void of any seniors in the starting lineup and a challenging schedule in 2010, the Phoenix competed against some of the nation’s best to begin the season. Elon continued to improve as the season went on and earned one of the four seeds to the league tournament with a 6-4 SoCon record. The fourth-seeded Phoenix upset top-seeded College of Charleston, 4-3, in the semifinals to advance to the championship match for a fourth straight season. The title match came down to the wire with UNCG managing the 4-3 victory over the Phoenix.
In 2009, Elon produced a 21-6 mark, its second 20-win season under Leonard’s tutelage. With a 9-1 regular-season league mark, the Phoenix came up just short in the SoCon Tournament championship match, falling to Furman in the final match. Damon Gooch and Philip Nemec became the first-ever Elon players to be selected to the NCAA Division I Men’s Tennis Championship. Gooch, a four-time first-team All-SoCon honoree, competed in both singles and doubles, with Nemec as his doubles partner. Gooch ranked 20th individually and the doubles tandem of Gooch and Nemec ranked 56th.
Leonard guided the Phoenix to a 17-9 mark – 7-2 in the league – en route to a 2008 second-place finish in the conference regular season and tournament despite relying on four freshmen in the six singles spots. Gooch, one of Leonard’s first recruits, reached No. 72 in the national rankings. Four players were named all-conference with Oscar Podlewski becoming the Phoenix’s second SoCon Freshman of the Year in three seasons.
In 2007, Leonard led Elon to its first-ever SoCon Tournament championship in any sport, earning an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Fashioning a 23-3 overall record, Elon surpassed its 1990 NAIA Division I national championship team (22-3) as the winningest squad in Phoenix men’s tennis history. Leonard was a junior playing at No. 3 singles and No. 2 doubles on the 1990 team. Of the 2007 squad’s 23 wins, 13 were decided in shutout fashion. Elon finished the year ranked 44th in the country.
The 2007 season also saw the Phoenix forge a perfect 12-0 mark against SoCon opponents and losses only to nationally-ranked foes Clemson, Duke and Wake Forest. Elon’s 14-match winning streak entering NCAA tournament action marked the program’s longest streak since the 1993 squad won 17 matches in a row. The Phoenix finished 3-3 against nationally-ranked teams and 20-0 against unranked programs.
Leonard led Elon from a last-place finish in the SoCon in 2005 to a share of first place in 2006 and the outright title in 2007. The remarkable turnaround saw the Phoenix go from 5-17 overall and 0-10 in the SoCon in 2005 to 19-5 overall and 8-1 in the SoCon in 2006 with a squad made up of all underclassmen.
Gooch became Elon’s first SoCon Freshman of the Year in 2006 and was honored with Elon’s first-ever national ranking among NCAA Division I players at No. 120. Gooch and Austin Fenn also earned the program’s first Division I doubles ranking (77th).
The 2006 squad also became the first Elon men’s tennis team to receive the Intercollegiate Tennis Association All-Academic Award. Leonard has had at least one player earn ITA Scholar-Athlete distinction in each of his years as head coach.
In his first season at Elon, Leonard coached ESPN The Magazine Second Team Academic All-American Pramote Malasitt to Stein H. Basnight Outstanding Athlete honors in 2005, recognizing him as the Elon male athlete of the year.
Prior to coaching the Phoenix, Leonard served as the tennis director at the Raleigh Racquet Club (1995-2004) in Raleigh, N.C., where he was in charge of one of the largest junior programs in the South with nearly 200 juniors. He was also responsible for coordinating and implementing clinics, facilitating tennis and social activities for members and handling all financial operations of the tennis program. During his tenure, Leonard coached many nationally-ranked juniors, including two national champions.
A 1991 Elon graduate, Leonard was named all-conference and all-district during each of his four years of competition. In 1991, he was tabbed the South Atlantic Conference Player of the Year and earned Stein H. Basnight Outstanding Athlete honors. An NAIA All-American in both 1990 and 1991, he was inducted into the Elon Sports Hall of Fame in 2001.
Leonard continued his playing career after his college days, becoming the North Carolina state champion in 1992 and earning a No. 1 ranking in the North Carolina Men’s Open Division. He played professional tennis in 1993-94, during which time he competed in circuit tournament competitions throughout the United States, Mexico, Canada, England, Spain and Portugal, achieving a world ranking.
Leonard and his wife, Amy, have two daughters, Olivia and Julia.
Assistant Men's Tennis Coach
Cesar Vargas joined the Elon University men’s tennis coaching staff in June 2015 and begins his second season as an assistant coach in 2016-17.
In his first season with Elon during the 2015-16 season, the Phoenix completed its second season in the CAA with a 17-6 overall record and the earned the No. 3 seed in the 2016 CAA Men's Tennis Championships. It was the third time in the last four seasons that the Phoenix program amassed 17 or more dual match victories in a single season. Freshman Felipe Sarrasague was named 2016 CAA Rookie of the Year, becoming the fifth player in program history to earn the honor. Elon also placed six players on the All-Conference teams, and the Phoenix earned CAA Weekly honors four times during the season.
Prior to Elon, Vargas spent the 2014-15 season on the men’s and women’s tennis coaching staffs at South Carolina Upstate in Spartanburg, S.C. Prior to his stint at Upstate, he was a member of the Georgia State staff for two seasons, including as interim head coach in the fall of 2012.
During his stint as interim head coach at Georgia State, he compiled a 44-9 record with three singles and two doubles titles, the best fall season in program history. His team was 21-1 in the first tournament he coached.
Georgia State captured the 2013 Sun Belt Conference Championship in the team's first-ever appearance in Sun Belt Conference Championships and first Sun Belt Championship in program history. The team had bigs wins against No. 49 ETSU and qualified for the NCAA Championships. Georgia State finished the year ranked No. 61 in the nation.
He also coach the No. 1 singles player to a 28-9 singles record, a high ranking of No. 54 rank in the country, and runner-up finish at ITA Southeast Regional Championships, which earned him a spot in the ITA/USTA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships. He was the first player in program history to achieve the feat and first to earn a berth into the 2013 NCAA Singles Championships.
He also led one of his doubles teams to a 14-2 dual match record, and a high ranking of No. 38 in the nation. They earned a spot in the 2013 NCAA Doubles Championships, the first doubles team to do so in program history and they reached the quarterfinals at NCAA's after defeating the No. 9-ranked team in the country.
Vargas played collegiately at the University of Nebraska and served as team co-captain while competing at the No. 2 singles and doubles position during his senior season. He graduated in 2004 with a double degree in international business and marketing and served as a graduate assistant with the team for one season following graduation.
Originally from Mazatlan, Mexico, Vargas was a four-time state champion while competing in the Mexican Junior Circuit. He also played prep school tennis at Edina High School in Edina, Minn., where he won the team and individual Minnesota State High School Class AA Championship.
Vargas is a certified teaching professional by both the United States Professional Tennis Association and the Professional Tennis Registry.
Assistant Women's Coach
Bob Owens is in his 12th season as the assistant coach for the Phoenix women's tennis program and has been working with Elon's tennis programs since 1983. His infinite positive energy and passion are always felt and used by each team member.
A long-time tennis coach at nearby Northeast Guilford High School, Owens worked closely with former Phoenix head coach Tom Parham for more than 20 years and now serves as an assistant to head coaches Leonard and Elizabeth Anderson.
A six-time Triad 3A Conference Coach of the Year, Owens has been both a tennis and football coach for more than 25 years. Owens has coached two 3A state champion doubles teams, as well as his son, who was a state runner-up in singles. He was once one of the 12 finalists for the North Carolina Teacher of the Year Award.
Owens is currently a member of the United States Tennis Association. He graduated from Guilford College and was a two-time All-American in football. He then began a professional career with the Philadelphia Bell of the Old World Football League before signing with the Philadelphia Eagles and playing two seasons.
He and his wife, Wanda, have three adult children - twin sons, Todd and Jay, and a daughter, Amber - and grandchildren Brody, Owen and Sophie.