STARKVILLE, Miss. (WCBI/MSU Athletics) – Pepperdine University announced Friday that Per Nilsson has accepted the head women’s tennis coaching position in Malibu after seven years at the helm of the Mississippi State men’s tennis squad.
Since Nilsson’s return to Starkville in 2008, the Bulldogs soared back into the national spotlight of collegiate tennis. Nilsson took over a 55th-ranked Bulldog squad for the 2007-08 season, turning State into a consistent top-25 squad, keeping MSU in the ITA top 25 for 53-straight weeks, a streak that is still alive, and reaching as high as ninth in his tenure in Starkville.
Highlighting Nilsson’s time in the Maroon and White have been four-straight NCAA Championship appearances. Nilsson guided the Bulldogs to their first-ever NCAA First & Second Round hosting bids in 2012 and 2013, along with MSU’s NCAA Round of 16 appearance in 2013, the school’s first since 2001. Individually, Nilsson has seen a total of 14 Bulldogs selected to the NCAA Individual Championships and has produced four ITA All-Americans.
The 2011 Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year also led MSU to back-to-back SEC Western Division titles in 2011 and 2012, while producing three SEC Freshmen of the Year and 17 All-SEC selections. The two-time ITA Southern Region Coach of the Year leaves Starkville with 95 career wins, all coming with the Bulldogs, which stands third in the MSU record book.
He was also a four-year letterwinner for State from 1991-94, part of four-straight NCAA round of 16 teams and the NCAA semifinalist squad in 1994.
“This was a tough decision,” Nilsson said. “Mississippi State has obviously been a big part of my life as both a player and coach, and I will always be a Bulldog deep down. But I feel returning to Pepperdine is the right move at this time in my life and career. I wish everyone at MSU who has helped me over the years nothing but the best in the future, and thank Scott Stricklin and John Cade in particular for their leadership and support.”
Nilsson will return to Pepperdine where he served five seasons (2003-07) as the assistant men’s coach, helping guide the Waves to the 2006 NCAA title.
“There is no doubt we are losing an outstanding coach and person in Per Nilsson,” MSU athletic director Scott Stricklin said. “He continues to establish himself as one of the great coaches in collegiate tennis and we wish him the best in his return to Pepperdine. The success we have had during his tenure has been excellent and it’s a credit to Per that it will allow us to attract a quality coach who can continue to help us compete for championships.”
With Nilsson’s departure, a national search for the new head coach of the Mississippi State men’s tennis program will begin immediately.