Big West Quartet Earns Regional Recognition From ITA
Two highly successful campaigns from men’s tennis stalwarts Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara reaped rewards for the Central Coast programs as the Intercollegiate Tennis Associated unveiled its regional awards winners Monday.
The Big West netted four of the eight Southwest Region awards. Those were as follows:
Wilson/ITA Coach of the Year: Nick Carless, Cal Poly
ITA Assistant Coach of the Year: Blake Muller, UC Santa Barbara
ITA Most Improved Player (Senior): Corey Pang, Cal Poly
ITA/Arthur Ashe Leadership and Sportsmanship Award: Morgan Mays, UC Santa Barbara
Carless earned his second Wilson/ITA Coach of the Year award after receiving the honor in 2014. Carless led the Mustangs to an 18-8 record and achieved the program’s highest ranking in Division I history at No. 33 on Feb. 21. The Mustangs stayed in the ITA top-50 national rankings for 10 straight weeks. His squad won eight consecutive contests at one point, and earned victories over Boise State, Pepperdine and Denver. The Mustangs advanced to the Big West Tournament championship match for the fourth time in the six-year Carless era.
Pang collected All-Big West First Team honors for the first time in his career and all-conference recognition for the third time, tallying an impressive 18-4 dual match record as he earned the regional honor for Most Improvend Player by a senior. He went 13-4 playing at the No. 1 singles spot and 5-0 at No. 2. Hewon his last seven matches and 11 of the last 12 with three going unfinished. He achieved a national singles ITA ranking of No. 100 and captured Big West Men’s Tennis Athlete of the Week honors three times. Pang also contributed to a near upset of No. 12 USC, knocking off No. 42-ranked Logan Smith in straight sets in a narrow 4-3 loss to the Trojans. Pang also was an undefeated 7-0 against Big West opponents. Pang played the majority of his career at No. 3 singles before vaulting up to the top spot for his final Mustang campaign.
Muller was named the top assistant coach in the Southwest Region after helping UC Santa Barbara to the Big West regular season and tournament titles. In his third year assisting Marty Davis, he helped the Gauchos to a 19-6 record and the program’s 10th overall trip to the NCAA Tournament. Muller helped UCSB achieve a national ranking as high as No. 37 and coached two first-team all-conference standouts this year in senior Morgan Mays and sophomore Nicolas Moreno de Alboran.
Mays is the fourth Big West representative since 2010 to earn the ITA/Arthur Ashe Sportsmanship and Leadership Award, joining UC Irvine honorees Jonathan Hammel (2015), Ryan Mayer (2011) and Zac Tsai (2010). The 2017 Big West Men’s Tennis Player of the Year, Mays contributed heavily to UCSB’s third straight conference tournament title, compiling a 13-9 dual match record. He teamed with Simon Freund to form one of the nation’s top doubles teams, procuring a national ranking as high as No. 6 in the country. Mays and Freund will compete in the upcoming NCAA Doubles Championships in Athens, Ga.
RECENT BIG WEST ITA REGION HONOREES
Jonathan Hammel, UC Irvine – ITA/Arthur Ashe Sportsmanship and Leadership Award – Southwest Region
Nick Carless, Cal Poly - Wilson/ITA Coach of the Year – Southwest Region
Ryan Redondo, Pacific - Wilson/ITA Coach of the Year – Northwest Region
Ryan Mayer, UC Irvine – Arthur Ashe Sportsmanship and Leadership Award – Southwest Region
Zac Tsai, UC Irvine – Arthur Ashe Sportsmanship and Leadership Award – Southwest