The Seward County Women's Tennis program came out of this weekend's ITA Awards Banquet smelling like a rose as it has been announced by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association that Paula Lopez has been named the ITA Rookie of the Year, Paula Coyos has been named the ITA Player to Watch, and Head Coach Jerry Thor has been named the ITA Region III Coach of the Year.
Freshman Paula Lopez has had a record breaking season for Seward County this year, filling up her trophy case in just over six months of competition for the Lady Saints. Lopez was named the ITA Rookie of the Year following fall and spring seasons for the ages. Lopez combined for 57 wins this season, a new school record for wins in a season and is ranked in the top 6 nationally in both singles and doubles. In the fall she became the first ever junior college player to win the Bethany Invitational Tournament and followed that up with both a singles and doubles championship at the Metro State Invitational comprised of 10 NCAA Division II programs. Lopez teamed with fellow freshman Paula Coyos in the 2013 ITA National Tournament and finished 3rd in the doubles bracket to close the fall. This spring she finished 15-4 overall and was the runner-up in the #1 singles bracket at the Region VI Tournament and paired with Coyos to go 17-3 in doubles action where they won a Region VI Championship. She was the 6th seeded player in the #1 singles bracket at the NJCAA National Tournament and fell in the tournament quarterfinals to finish 5th overall while she and Coyos were the 2nd seeded duo in #1 doubles at the tournament and finished 3rd.
Fellow freshman Paula Coyos had nearly as impressive of rookie year as Lopez and was named the ITA Player to Watch for the 2014 season. Coyos won 54 matches during her freshman season, ranking second in school history only behind her partner Lopez. She began her career with a singles and doubles championship at the Metro State Invitational in the fall of 2013 and was chosen as a wild card with Lopez for entry into the ITA National Tournament where the pair finished 3rd. This spring she was 16-4 in singles action for Seward, mainly at #2 and paired with Lopez to go 17-3 in #1 doubles action. She was the Region VI Champion at both #2 singles as well as #1 doubles and was ranked 16th and 6th respectively going into the NJCAA National Tournament. She turned up her game to another level at the National Tournament where she advanced to the semifinal round in both singles and doubles, finishing 3rd in each draw.
Lady Saints Head Coach Jerry Thor certainly deserves a large portion of the credit for a record breaking season for Seward. Thor was named the ITA Region III Coach of the Year after leading Seward to a school record 7 wins during the spring and another handful of individual tournament titles during their fall season. Thor led Lopez and Coyos to a combined 111 wins this year, far and away the most combined wins by two players in school history. The Lady Saints finished 2nd at the Region VI Tournament, marking their best finish since the 2008 season. With play continuing at the NJCAA National Tournament at the time of this release, Seward is expected to finish in the top 15 once all draws are complete.