"I am so excited for Per's return to Pepperdine to lead our women's tennis program," director of athletics Steve Potts. "Per has enjoyed great success all along his coaching career and I am confident that he will be able to take our very successful program to even greater heights. Per's commitment to our Christian mission, to the academic well-being of our student-athletes and to competing for championships at the highest level make him a great fit for Pepperdine."
After leaving Pepperdine in 2007, Nilsson spent the past seven seasons coaching the men's squad at his alma mater, Mississippi State. He compiled a record of 95-76 while going 36-42 in the tough Southeastern Conference. He led the Bulldogs to back-to-back SEC West titles in 2011 and '12 and brought MSU to four consecutive NCAA tournaments from 2011-14.
"I'm still speechless," Nilsson said upon his hiring. "I will never forget my first day at Pepperdine 12 years ago. It is such a special place and a dream to return and coach the women's team.
"I want to sincerely thank Dr. Potts and president [Andrew] Benton for giving me the opportunity and entrusting the women's team to me. Coach Escudero has built an amazing program at Pepperdine and it's such an honor to be able to work alongside him as we continue to move forward."
Nilsson takes over for Escudero, who has been at the helm for 37 seasons beginning in 1977-78. He stepped down at the end of the 2013-14 campaign, but will remain on staff as the associate head coach. Nilsson inherits a team that has made 27 consecutive NCAA tournaments and captured the West Coast Conference championship for the 24th time in 2014 while earning a final national ITA ranking of No. 24.
"I was very happy to hear Per will be joining the team," Escudero said. "He has the energy and knowledge to recruit and train really well and take us to the next level, especially in our doubles game. I can't wait to work with him."
In his seven seasons in Starkville, Nilsson's squads produced four ITA All-Americans and 17 All-SEC selections.
His eye for recruiting and developing young talent is evident as a Mississippi State player garnered SEC Freshman of the Year honors in three of the past four seasons. In 2013, Romain Bogaerts not only took the conference's top rookie award, he was also honored as the ITA National Freshman of the Year.
Nilsson first brought the Bulldogs to the NCAA championship in 2011, their first appearance since 2005, and MSU advanced to the second round. After reaching the second round again in 2012, Nilsson's young 2013 team eclipsed expectations and advanced to the NCAA Round of 16 for the first time since 2001. Mississippi State made its fourth consecutive appearance at the tournament in 2014 and reached the second round.
Nilsson has racked up the honors for himself as well throughout his time at MSU, including an SEC Coach of the Year honor in 2011 and two ITA Southern Region Coach of the Year honors in 2011 and '13.