TEMPE, Ariz. – The Intercollegiate Tennis Association announced the 2016-17 Division I national award winners on Tuesday, May 23rd, at the 2017 Division I NCAA Tennis Championships in Athens, Georgia.
Wilson/ITA Coach of the Year: Melissa Schaub, The Ohio State University
Schaub led the Buckeyes to a second-consecutive 11-0 record in Big Ten regular season matches to claim the Big Ten regular-season title and won the league tournament for the second year in a row, while outscoring its opponents 73-1 in conference matches. Ohio State earned the No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament and reached the national semifinals for the first time in program history. Schaub has five players nationally-ranked in singles, including the nation’s No. 1-ranked player in Francesca Di Lorenzo. Schaub has been named Big Ten Coach of the Year for three straight seasons.
ITA Assistant Coach of the Year: Courtney Nagle, University of North Carolina
Nagle’s three seasons at North Carolina have been nothing short of amazing. The Tar Heels are a combined 91-7 in dual matches since she came to Chapel Hill, including a 41-1 mark against ACC opponents. In 2017, North Carolina won its second straight ACC Championship. The Tar Heels featured a lineup in 2017 that contained three freshmen, two sophomores and senior Hayley Carter, who has set nearly every record possible, both at UNC and in the ACC. She is the ACC record-holder with 165 career singles victories and has won back-to-back ACC Player of the Year awards. The Tar Heels were the top seed in the ACC Championship for the fifth consecutive year, and took down eighth-ranked Georgia Tech in the final, giving head coach Brian Kalbas his third ACC tournament title. In addition, North Carolina reached the final of the 2017 ITA Division I Women’s National Team Indoor Championship. In the Oracle/ITA rankings, North Carolina has been ranked in the Top 5 throughout 2017, and individually, Carter began the year No. 1 in singles and has held the No. 2 spot for most of 2017. She and Jessie Aney have held the No. 1 slot in doubles, and the duo won the 2016 Riviera/ITA Women’s All-American Doubles Championship.
ITA Most Improved Player (Senior): Blair Shankle, Baylor University
Shankle won the ITA Texas Regional tournament in the Fall of 2016 in both singles and doubles. She finished her 2016-17 campaign with a 27-4 overall record, 17-2 dual match record at No. 1 singles and a 10-4 mark against nationally-ranked opponents. She concluded the regular season with a No. 3 national ranking in singles.
ITA Senior Player of the Year: Hayley Carter, University of North Carolina
Carter is the ACC record-holder with 165 career singles victories. She’s posted a 35-3 singles record and 35-2 doubles mark in 2016-17. Carter was a perfect 25-0 at No. 1 singles and 22-1 in doubles. She’s currently ranked No. 2 in singles and No. 4 in doubles. The 2016 and 2017 ACC Women’s Tennis Player of the Year, Carter is a five-time ITA All-American honoree. She won the doubles championship with Jessie Aney at the 2016 Riviera/ITA Women’s All-American Championships and won the mixed doubles title with Georgia Tech’s Christopher Eubanks at the 2016 Oracle ITA Masters. Inducted into Phi Beta Kappa honorary society in November 2016 and was the 2016 ACC Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
ITA Rookie of the Year: Ena Shibahara, UCLA
Shibahara is currently ranked No. 5 nationally in singles. At the time of the award nominations, she’d posted a 36-5 overall record, including a 16-2 mark in dual matches playing at No. 1 singles. She has a 19-4 record against nationally-ranked opponents. Shibahara won the 2016 Oracle ITA Masters and reached the final of the 2016 Riviera/ITA Women’s All-American Championships after advancing through the pre-qualifying and qualifying rounds. In doubles, Shibahara and partner Jada Hart finished runner-up at the 2016 USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships.
ITA Player to Watch: Astra Sharma, Vanderbilt University
Sharma is ranked No. 1 in the country in doubles with teammate Emily Smith, and ranked fourth in singles. Sharma reached the semifinals of the 2016 Riviera/ITA Women’s All-American Championships and the 2016 USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships. She was named SEC Player of the Year and was instrumental in helping Vanderbilt win the SEC regular-season and tournament titles. In addition to her tremendous on-court results, Sharma is known for her superb sportsmanship.
ITA/Arthur Ashe Leadership and Sportsmanship Award: Monica Robinson, University of Notre Dame
Robinson was awarded the Byron V. Kanaley Award, which is the most prestigious award given to a Notre Dame student-athlete. The award is based on an athlete who has been the most exemplary as a student and leader. She also earned the Francis Patrick O’Conner Award, which goes to students/athletes who most embody the spirit of Notre Dame. Robinson was the only student-athlete to receive both awards. Robinson’s time spent with the team’s adopted young cancer patient, Sophia, has been amazing. Robinson has accompanied Sophia to some of her appointments, and also attended Sophia’s birthday party. You can see on Sophia’s face when she attends matches and sees Robinson, how much that time spent together means to Sophia. On the court, has a career record of 73-46 in singles and 61-52 in doubles.
ITA/Cissie Leary Award for Sportsmanship: Aslina Chua, Michigan State University
Chua is very involved in community service and can always be found teaching kids how to play tennis. Some of her volunteer activities include RISE (racial relations through sport); Todd Martin Youth Leadership and school readings. After finding herself in and out of the lineup her first two years at Michigan State, Chua earned the No. 1 spot on the team this year and led the Spartans to one of their most successful seasons in program history. Chua has been named to the Dean’s List four times and was a 2017 Academic Excellence Gala Honoree.
ITA Community Service Award (tie): University of Tennessee & East Carolina University
Tennessee hosted seven Little Smokeys Youth Clinics at Goodfriend Tennis Center throughout the season, which involved collaboration with a variety of local groups, including USTA Tennessee, Knoxville Parks & Rec, and the Sean Karl Foundation. Tennessee’s players benefitted from having the Little Smokeys program in more than one way. Less than 10 years ago, the girls were the same age as some of these kids who were coming to hit with the team before matches. They remember clearly what it was like to be in their shoes, so they were eager to help them have fun on the court. Our team has also matured as young women simply because they know they are role models to these young kids. Our team has taken ownership and pride in growing the sport that has given them so many privileges.The team also spent time with Big Brothers, Big Sisters and The Love Kitchen in Knoxville. Assisted at the Cherokee Country Club tennis clinic and volunteered at Tennessee’s SportsFest, which promotes inclusion of persons with disabilities in sports. Thanks to the involvement in the community, the Volunteers have enjoyed playing in front of significantly larger crowds than what they were used to. Instead of having 50-100 fans in the seats, they routinely saw 200-250 fans in attendance.
East Carolina has worked with Aces for Autism in North Carolina at the Baywood Racket Club, the Vidant Children’s Hospital, Princesses at Play, Stop Hunger Now, Pitt County Animal Shelter, Special Olympics, the Boys & Girls Club of Eastern North Carolina and various other organizations. The coaching staff at East Carolina really emphasizes community engagement and how important the people of eastern North Carolina are to the university. This message truly sunk in following Hurricane Matthew, where the team dedicated hours of its time to volunteer work to aid in the recovery efforts. That led to the team adopting the Aces for Autism of NC for the year, and to date the team has volunteered close to 200 hours with the organization.
Wilson/ITA Coach of the Year: Sam Paul, University of North Carolina
In his 24th year as head coach of the Tar Heels, Paul guided his 2017 team to unprecedented success. North Carolina recorded a program-best 29 wins during the season and advanced to the NCAA Division I Tennis Championship semifinals and final for the first time, ultimately falling to ACC rival Virginia in the championship match. Under Paul's guidance, senior Ronnie Schneider was named ITA Senior Player of the Year and freshman William Blumberg the ITA Rookie of the Year.
ITA Assistant Coach of the Year (tie): Justin Kronauge, The Ohio State University & Dustin Taylor, University of Virginia
Kronauge helped lead Ohio State to its 12th-straight Big Ten regular-season title with a perfect 11-0 record. The Buckeyes won their 12th Big Ten Tournament championship and reached the finals of the 2017 ITA Division I Men’s National Team Indoor Championship. Despite playing one of the toughest schedules in the country, Ohio State has held a Top 3 national team ranking all season.
Since Taylor arrived at Virginia three years ago, the Cavaliers have won two NCAA titles, an ITA Division I Men’s National Team Indoor Championship (2017), two ACC Tournament championships and two ACC regular-season crowns. Taylor is always on the courts, hitting, instructing, guiding and helping the team get better, as they stand one victory away from a third straight NCAA Championship.
ITA Most Improved Player (Senior): Jose Salazar, University of Arkansas
Salazar has blossomed into a top-level player in both singles and doubles, currently holding a No. 39 national singles ranking and a No. 6 national ranking in doubles with teammate Martin Redlicki. In 2016-17, he’s won an ITA Central Regional Championship and earned first team All-SEC accolades.
ITA Senior Player of the Year: Ronnie Schneider, University of North Carolina
A four-time All-ACC and 2016 All-American, Schneider has put together an impressive four-year career at North Carolina. At the time of the awards selection, he’d posted 118 singles wins and 91 victories in doubles. He holds 15 wins over ranked opponents in 2016-17. Schneider has helped guide the Tar Heels to a record of 102-26 in the last four years, and the 2016 ITA Division I Men’s National Team Indoor Championship. This year, North Carolina has made history by reaching the school’s first-ever NCAA national semifinal and final. A two-time team captain, Schneider was a recipient of the ACC Postgraduate Scholarship; he graduated from Business School with a 3.3 GPA.
ITA Rookie of the Year: William Blumberg, University of North Carolina
The ACC Freshman of the Year and First Team All-ACC, Blumberg was 13-0 in ACC dual matches and 19-1 overall at No. 2 singles. He sports a national ranking of No. 16 in singles and No. 12 in doubles. Blumberg is one of five players in the country to be ranked in the Top 16 in singles and doubles, but the only one who has achieved these rankings with spring-only results.
ITA Player to Watch: Alfredo Perez, University of Florida
Perez is a Top 10-ranked player in both singles and doubles, with a No. 8 singles ranking and No. 5 doubles ranking. He’s posted a 23-10 singles record and 20-7 in doubles.
ITA/Arthur Ashe Leadership and Sportsmanship Award: Christopher Eubanks, Georgia Tech
A member of the Georgia Tech Student-Athlete Advisory Board, Eubanks has helped coordinate and execute events such as the Tech Beautification Day and the Michael Isenhour Toy Drive. He volunteers in the athletic communications office and on men’s basketball game days, and also volunteers at Washington Park’s Volley Against Violence. Eubanks advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2016 Saint Francis Health System ITA Men’s All-American Championships and reached the semifinals of the 2016 USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships, where he was awarded the USTA/ITA Sportsmanship Award. Won the Mixed Doubles title with North Carolina’s Hayley Carter at the 2016 Oracle ITA Masters. A two-time ACC Men’s Tennis Player of the Year, earning the honor in 2016 and 2017. He hasn’t lost a match at home in two seasons. Eubanks has been in the Top 10 of the Oracle/ITA rankings since April 2016, reaching a career-high of No. 4 this season.
Rafael Osuna Sportsmanship Award: Lucas Fumagalli, United States Air Force Academy
This year's Air Force team captain is a two-time NCAA Academic All-American, a three-time Mountain West Scholar Athlete and Academic All-Conference honoree. Named to the Air Force Academy Superintendent’s List in every semester: awarded to cadets who achieve military (top third in class), athletic (greater than a 3.0 GPA), and academic (greater than a 3.0 GPA) excellence. Received the Outstanding in Aeronautical Engineering award for having the highest grade of 396 students in Aeronautical Engineering class last semester. Held numerous high-ranking leadership roles as a cadet during the academic year and during summer programs. Basic Cadet Training Flight Commander and Element Leader: directly in charge of the development and integration of 30 new Basic Cadets into the Air Force and Cadet Wing. Squadron Superintendent: highest-ranking junior in a squadron of 100 cadets; serves directly with the Squadron Commander and advises Commander on key personnel issues; coordinates accountability and disciplinary issues with other squadron leadership. Student-Athlete Advisory Committee Representative: acted as the liaison for the Tennis Team to enhance the total student-athlete experience by promoting opportunity, protecting student-athlete welfare and fostering a positive student-athlete image. His senior engineering design team presented their final design to Air Force Research Labs at Eglin Air Force Base regarding an innovation to forward firing fragmentation munitions which would improve the uniformity of frag spread once the munition’s warhead detonates at a certain height of burst.
ITA Community Service Award: Boise State University
The Broncos volunteered and served as Boise State athletic representatives for the Idaho Make-A-Wish Foundation. At the Make-A-Wish Banquet, team members served as greeters, waiters, entertainers, and also most importantly, as active fundraisers and sponsors for “Make-A-Wish Children Foundation of Idaho.” In addition, the Broncos “adopted” Sam Lee, a 13-year-old Idaho teen battling a life-threatening disease, who was signed to an honorary letter of intent as part of the team’s work with the National Team IMPACT organization. The team organized several activities for Sam, including laser tag, go-kart riding, bowling and a birthday party at Red Robin. Several players have logged over 80 hours of various community service work through the year, with their mission being to impact the Boise community in a positive and dynamic way that would influence people in a life-changing manner.