Guilbeau, Drada Named Nation’s Top Coaches
ATHENS, Ga. – Kentucky coach Mark Guilbeau and assistant coach Carlos Drada swept the Intercollegiate Tennis Association women’s tennis coaching awards, picking up the national coach-of-the-year and assistant coach-of-the-year awards at the ITA post-season awards banquet Sunday evening at the University of Georgia.
Guilbeau completes a post-season sweep of the coaching awards for which he was eligible after claiming the SEC Coach of the Year award in April and the Wilson/ITA Southeast Region Coach of the Year selection earlier this month. Now in his ninth year at Kentucky, Guilbeau guided the Wildcats to the most successful season in the program’s history. Guilbeau’s Cats climbed as high as No. 2 in the ITA rankings and made their first appearance in the finals of a national-championship event earlier this season, as the Cats defeated Clemson, North Carolina and Duke to reach the USTA/ITA National Team Indoor final in February. Kentucky capped a sterling regular season with a 10-1 conference record and its first Southeastern Conference regular-season title. UK finished the season with a 26-6 record after falling to eventual NCAA finalist Texas on Friday in the quarterfinals. In addition to Clemson, Kentucky defeated another NCAA semifinalist, Florida, earlier this season.
“Any coaching award we receive is completely and totally due to the efforts and accomplishments of the team and great group of players,” Guilbeau said. “It is very exciting for our team and program to be recognized in this way by the ITA. I would like to thank the ITA and all of the individuals that support this process; a great group of supporters of Kentucky women’s tennis in Lexington and beyond; certainly, our staff at the University of Kentucky, specifically Carlos (Drada) and (volunteer assistant coach) Jonathan Thompson, and, most importantly, a great group of young ladies who have given everything they can for our University of Kentucky women’s tennis team to reach the elite level and allow me to work with them day in and day out at something that is much more special than just a job. We have had many great teams and individuals at the University of Kentucky, and I am grateful to all of them and all of our supporters over the past nine years.”
Drada, serving in his fourth season under Guilbeau after a brilliant playing career at Kentucky, collects his first national-coaching honor after being named the ITA Southeast Region Assistant Coach of the Year earlier this month. Kentucky has made the NCAA round of 16 in each of Drada’s four seasons on the coaching staff.
“It’s an honor for me to be part of this program. Honestly, I was just thrilled to receive the regional assistant coach-of-the-year award. This is more of a team effort. I want to share the reward with Jonathan (Thompson). He does the same amount of work. I want to thank him for that and congratulate him. I want to thank the team and Mark Guilbeau. We go as far as the team goes. We wouldn’t be getting this recognition without the team willing to work toward our goals everyday in practice.”
Cats Begin NCAA Singles Play
Senior Aibika Kalsarieva and sophomore Sarah Foster will make their second-consecutive NCAA singles appearances, while sophomore Kim Coventry will make her first, as the NCAA Singles Championships begin Monday at Georgia’s Dan Magill Tennis Complex.
The fourth-seeded Kalsarieva, who became the first Wildcat to make the NCAA quarterfinals a season ago, will take on Florida International’s 60th-ranked Paula Zabala. In just her first NCAA singles appearance in 2004, Kalsarieva defeated Washington’s Claire Carter, Georgia’s Shadisha Robinson and Duke’s Amanda Johnson to reach the quarterfinals, where she fell to Fresno State’s Jelena Pandzic.
The 64th-ranked Foster will meet a former ITA top-10 player in Oregon’s Daria Panova, who now holds a No. 51 ITA singles ranking. Foster was eliminated in the opening round a season ago by Clemson’s Julie Coin, who is seeded second in this year’s draw. Panova was ranked No. 8 during the fall season but has dropped throughout the spring season.
Coventry faces an imposing challenge in her NCAA singles debut. The 30th-ranked Australian will meet California’s Suzi Babos, one of the nation’s top freshmen, who holds a No. 8 singles ranking. Each Kentucky singles qualifier begins play Monday at approximately 11:30 a.m. EDT. Live scoring for each match will be available at georgiadogs.com.
Kentucky’s Foster/Kalsarieva and Coventry/Schwenk doubles pairs begin NCAA doubles competition on Tuesday at times to be announced.