Aug. 7, 2008
The best season in school history for the USC Upstate women's tennis team was capped off with a final honor on Wednesday afternoon, as the team was one of 103 NCAA Division I programs around the nation to earn the Intercollegiate Tennis Association's All-Academic Award. In addition, seniors Susana Hernandez (Cali, Colombia/Colegio Americano) and Diana Martinez (Medellin, Colombia/Nuestra del Senora) and juniors Daniela Lovera (Caracas, Venezuela/Santa Rosa de Lima) and Vivian Neuenschwander (Arequipa, Peru/Max-Uhle) were named ITA Scholar-Athletes.
The ITA All-Academic Team award is open to any ITA program that has a cumulative team grade point average of 3.20 or above (on a 4.00 scale). All eligible student-athletes whose names appear on the team's roster and have competed in one or more varsity matches were included in the team GPA. In order to earn ITA Scholar-Athlete status a player must be a varsity letter winner, have a grade point average of at least 3.50 (on a 4.00 scale) for the current academic year, and have been enrolled at their present school for at least 2 semesters.
The Upstate women's tennis team was as brilliant in the classroom as it was on the court where it captured the first outright Atlantic Sun Conference regular season championship in school history, as it posted a 3.512 team GPA during the 2007-08 academic year. In addition, the team's 3.547 GPA during the spring semester was the highest of all 17 sports at USC Upstate. All seven members of the team were named to the Atlantic Sun Conference All-Academic Team for carrying a GPA of more than 3.0 during the spring semester.
Upstate is one of two teams, along with East Tennessee State, to earn the award from the Atlantic Sun Conference and is one of two Division I schools in South Carolina, along with Coastal Carolina, to earn the award. Gardner-Webb, who left the Atlantic Sun Conference for the Big South Conference at the end of the 2007-08 school year, also earned the award.
Hernandez, who earns the ITA award for the first time, was the Spartans No. 2 singles player, going 20-9 in singles play and 18-5 record in doubles play at the No. 2 position to earn Second Team All-A-Sun honors. The 5-7 Colombian was a key player for the Spartans all year long, as she posted a 6-3 mark in Atlantic Sun Conference play and added a 7-1 mark in doubles with partner Lovera. She is one of just three players in school history to win 20 matches in back-to-back seasons.
Martinez became the first athlete at Upstate to ever earn two CoSIDA/ESPN:The Magazine Academic All-American honors in a career and was also the first to earn First Team Academic All-American honors. Martinez, who finished her academic career with a flawless 4.0 GPA as an economics major, finished her athletic career as the school's all-time leader in singles wins (73), doubles wins (64) and combined wins (137). She finished this season at 20-6 in singles play, marking her second straight year with 20 wins, helping her become one of just three players in school history to win 20 matches in two straight years. She was the first tennis player in school history to earn Atlantic Sun Conference Player of the Week honors on Feb. 8.
Lovera, who earns her first ITA Scholar-Athlete award, finished her junior season 10th on school's career singles list (38), fifth on the doubles list (49) and eighth on combined wins list (87). She went 13-2 in singles play and added a 12-4 doubles slate after she was hindered by an injury during the fall season. Her biggest impact came in Atlantic Sun play, where she finished a perfect 9-0 in singles. She won her last eight matches of the year, a stretch from March 7 to April 10 and she provided the clinching point in 5-2 win over defending A-Sun Champions, Jacksonville, with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Juliana Umeki, helping Upstate take sole possession of first place. She earned A-Sun Player of the Week honors for her role in wins over Jacksonville and North Florida, sweeping both her singles and doubles matches against the teams.
Neuenschwander, who earned her first ITA Scholar-Athlete honors, finished her junior season ninth in the school's career singles wins list (39), 13th on the doubles list (29) and 10th on the combined wins list (68). She went 11-7 in singles play, including an impressive 7-2 dual meet slate and added a 4-1 mark in doubles play. Neuenschwander was a perfect 4-0 in A-Sun play and she opened the season by reaching the `B' draw singles semifinals at the USC Upstate Fall Tournament.
Upstate finished the 2008 season 17-3 overall and a perfect 11-0 in the Atlantic Sun Conference to win the school's first Atlantic Sun Conference title. The Spartans, in their first year of Division I competition, were not eligible for postseason competition as a provisional member of DI. Their first year of eligibility for postseason play is 2011-12.