FRISCO, Texas – Texas A&M – Corpus Christi Women's Tennis players Stefania Nicolae, Maider Martin and Mia Matuszak became the first Islanders ever to garner First Team All-Southland honors on Wednesday, with Nicolae earning first team in singles and the team of Martin and Matuszak making it for doubles.
"The most important thing I would say about all of these girls is that their greatest attributes was the kind of teammates they were and the way they pushed each other every match," said Director of Tennis Steve Moore. "A big factor in each girl's success was the constant encouragement and drive they got from their teammates. This team was special for that this year."
The Islanders, who finished in second place of the Southland Conference standings, the highest in school history, saw another first on Wednesday with the release of the All-Southland honors and conference champions ahead of the start of the Southland Conference Tournament on Friday morning.
Nicolae, a junior from Romania, earned the honors after finishing 15-2 overall on the year, including a 7-2 mark in Southland Conference matches. She has won four straight matches heading into the tournament, and was a big part of the Islanders ascension in the conference standings.
"I'm so proud of Stefania, she has become so mentally tough and such a smart player," said Moore. "She really sees the game as a chess match now, and has grown so much. She brought it for our team every match this year."
In addition to her singles play, Nicolae also finished 13-4 in doubles play to earn Second Team All-Southland recognition with Kuselj during the historic Islanders season. She teamed with Kuselj at No. 1 doubles to go 11-4 overall and played well throughout the season, going 6-3 in league play at the top doubles spot.
"Those girls delivered when we needed them the most in some of the biggest and most pivotal conference matches," said Moore. "They were both great leaders for us this year."
Martin and Matuszak teamed to go a perfect 9-0 in Southland matches, earning both first team honors in doubles, and earning the conference championship for No. 3 doubles this season. Overall, the duo finished 13-3 on the season to pace the Islanders in doubles.
The team was one of both youth and experience, as Martin is a true freshman from Spain, and Matuszak is a senior from Katy, Texas. The teammates were a rock throughout Southland Conference play as the team lost the doubles point just once in league play, and twice overall during the year.
"That team was a rock for us," said Moore. "Mia understands doubles as well as any girl we've ever had here, and Maider showed incredible courage to jump in and learn our doubles schemes as a freshman. She didn't just learn them, she really put them into action when it counted."
In addition to the first team members, freshman Celia Rodriguez Delgado earned Second Team All-Southland in singles after losing just one match all season. The newcomer from Santa Cruz de Tenerife in the Canary Islands went 13-1 after seeing action in the second match of the season. She played at No. 4, No. 5 and No. 6 singles throughout the season, earning a record of 6-1 at No. 5 where she played half of her matches.
"What a year Celia had, she really showed incredible maturity and toughness for a freshman," said Moore. "I give her a lot of credit for the courage and consistency that she played with."
The team will be in action starting this Friday at the Southland Conference Tournament in Beaumont, Texas. The Islanders will face McNeese State in the opening round, with an 11 a.m. start time set at the Beaumont Municipal Tennis Center.
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Player of the Year: Klaudia Gawlik – McNeese State
Freshman of the Year: Klaudia Gawlik – McNeese State
Newcomer of the Year: Valya Rusakova – Southeastern Louisiana
Coach of the Year: Jason Hayes – Southeastern Louisiana
First-Team Singles All-Conference
Klaudia Gawlik, McNeese State
Polina Konop, Northwestern State
Renee Villarreal, Southeastern Louisiana
Tatiana Larina, Northwestern State
Madeleine Mortimore, Sam Houston State
Stefania Nicolae, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
Second-Team Singles All-Conference
Malena Gordo, Stephen F. Austin
Sheridan Currie, Sam Houston State
Dariya Dashutina, Lamar
Celia Rodriguez Delgado, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
Carolina Salas, Lamar
Valya Rusakova, Southeastern Louisiana
First-Team Doubles All-Conference
Tatiana Larina/Andrea Nedorostova, Northwestern State
Polina Konop/Nataly Krutova, Northwestern State
Maider Martin/Mia Matuszak, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
Second-Team Doubles All-Conference
Doris Kuselj/Stefania Nicolae, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
Malena Gordo/Julia Lorca, Stephen F. Austin
Carolina Salas/Helene Czudek, Lamar
No. 1 Singles -Klaudia Gawlik, McNeese State (8-0)
No. 2 Singles- Tatiana Larina, Northwestern State (8-1)
No. 3 Singles- Renee Villarreal, Southeastern Louisiana (7-0)
No. 4 Singles- Valya Rusakova , Southeastern Louisiana (6-0)
No. 5 Singles- Maddie Mortimore , Sam Houston State (9-0)
No. 6 Singles- Isabel Brito, Southeastern Louisiana (6-1)
No. 1 Doubles- Tatiana Larina/Andrea Nedorostova, Northwestern State (7-2)
No. 2 Doubles- Polina Konop/Natalya Krutova, Northwestern State (9-0)
No. 3 Doubles- Maider Martin/Mia Matuszak, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (9-0)