Over the past 40 years, UC Irvine’s tennis programs have boasted numerous national championships, conference titles and All-American performers.

In their efforts to continue this tradition, coaches Mike Edles and Trevor Kronemann rely on extensive personal experience: As former UCI student-athletes themselves, they contributed much to this record of tennis excellence.

Edles, for instance, anchored the 1977 Division II national championship squad, and four-time All-American Kronemann is generally considered the best Anteater player ever.

So it’s no surprise they oversee top programs that annually compete for Big West trophies.

Entering the 2012 season, Kronemann looks to guide his men’s team to its third straight NCAA tournament, while Edles believes his women’s team has what it takes to capture its second conference crown in three years.

“We’re extremely excited with our progress,” says Edles, now in his 16th year as the women’s coach. “We have as much talent as we’ve ever had, and reaching the NCAA tournament is a realistic goal.”

“Winning a national title is what drives us,” notes Kronemann, currently in his sixth season at the helm of the men’s squad.

While tennis is known as a sport of individual achievement, at the college level, it’s a team effort, and few programs are more tight-knit than UCI’s. Kronemann often says there is no men’s or women’s tennis at UCI — just tennis. Players from both teams routinely support each other, and once a year, they get together to play mixed doubles.

“They really enjoy the camaraderie,” Edles says. “Tennis is normally such a lonely sport, but at college they can truly be a team. It’s a breath of fresh air.”

“We’re all part of one family,” adds Kronemann, whose assistant coaches are also UCI graduates, “the Anteater family.”

And there are no prouder patriarchs than Edles and Kronemann, who both recall their undergraduate years at UCI as among the best times of their lives.

Edles came to UCI in 1975 from Long Beach Polytechnic High School, from which Billie Jean King had also graduated. In the ’70s, the Anteaters were a Division II tennis power, winning six national titles – the last during Edles’ sophomore year. “UCI was a perfect fit,” he says.

After earning an economics degree, Edles took to coaching, leading the men’s teams at Cal State Bakersfield, Chapman University and Cal State Hayward to conference titles before becoming the women’s coach at Boise State in 1992. He returned to UCI in 1996.

“I really love it here,” Edles says. “The undergraduate experience is terrific, and I want to convey that feeling to my players.”

Kronemann hopes to foster that enthusiasm as well. He entered UCI in 1987 from the prestigious IMG Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Bradenton, Fla., where his classmates included Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras.

He joined Anteater tennis in the heart of the Greg Patton era. From 1979 to 1992, Patton led his men to nine Big West championships and 10 top-25 final national rankings. While winning four Big West singles titles, Kronemann was the backbone of teams that snagged four straight conference crowns.

After graduating in 1990 with a degree in economics, he joined the professional tour, playing around the world before retiring in 1998. The next year, Kronemann was inducted into the UCI Athletics Hall of Fame.

He returned to Orange County to begin a career as a financial consultant, but, Kronemann says, “My heart wasn’t in it.” An offer to coach the men’s team at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo brought him back to the game.

“There’s nothing else I’d rather do,” says Kronemann, who also coaches the Orange County Breakers of World TeamTennis, which will be playing its home matches in the Bren Events Center this coming season. “My players are interested in my pro days and my experiences at UCI. Being here makes me feel young and rejuvenated.”

The men’s team starts Big West play Feb. 20 at home against UC Santa Barbara; the women kick off their conference slate March 3 at home versus the Gauchos.