O'Brien, Holtzhausen and Kirstein take home season awards from OVC

O'Brien, Holtzhausen and Kirstein take home season awards from OVC

O'Brien OVC Player of the Year,
Kirstein Freshman of the Year

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. - Tennessee Tech sophomores Dean O'Brien and Kelly Holtzhausen, along with freshman Justin Kirstein, took home season awards as announced by the Ohio Valley Conference Thursday. O'Brien received the top men's tennis honor as he was named the OVC Player of the Year and earned a spot on the all-OVC first team. Kirstein took home the other major men's award from the OVC, as he was named the OVC Freshman of the Year and claimed a spot on the all-OVC second team. Holtzhausen, who went 8-1 in the conference, earned all-OVC first-team honors.

"These are tremendous honors," said first-year TTU coach Dan Silverstein. "Dean, Justin and Kelly have been working hard all season and it showed on the court. They all deserve these honors."

O'Brien, a Benmore, South Africa native, has had one of the best first two-year start to his career in Golden Eagle history. He began his freshman season going 19-4 in singles while going 13-6 in doubles. He followed that up so far this year with a going 15-1 during the spring. In only the second match of the season, O'Brien took down then No. 29 Clint Bowles of Florida State. The win gave him national ranking points which he has used to be ranked as high as No. 102 this season. He is the only the second Tech player to earn a national ranking and the second in as many years. In 2008, current student-assistant coach Borja Zarco earned the No. 100 spot and advanced to the NCAA Singles Championships.

"Dean is one of the best players that I have had the privledge of coaching," Silverstein said. "He plays every point like it is the last one. He never gives up."

Kirstein, who comes to Tech from Johannesburg, South Africa, was the lone freshman on either first-team or second-team. With an 8-0 record at number four in the OVC, he takes home his first all-OVC award. Kirstein is currently 12-4 in singles this spring and takes an 11-match win streak in singles into the OVC Tournament. Forced to three sets only three times this season, Kirstein began the spring with a pair of wins at Florida State and Florida A&M.

"Justin came to Tech and made an immediate impact on this program," Silverstein said. "We look forward to many more years of him being a Golden Eagle."

Holtzhausen is having one of the best seasons in Tech women's tennis history. She has had a 28-set win streak this season from the last match at the Southern Miss Invitational in the fall to the last home match of the season against Eastern Kentucky. Some of her prominent wins have come against players from Kentucky, Middle Tennessee and West Florida. She was twiced named this season OVC Women's Tennis Player of the Week. Thus far this season she is 19-4 in singles and 14-9 in doubles.

"Kelly is a player that every coach dreams of having on their team," Silverstein said. "She works hard from the first serve to the final volley. She is a total joy to coach and be around."

All three players look to lead their teams even further this season when the 2009 OVC Championships begin Friday in Paducah, Ky. The Tech men will start with a first round contest against Eastern Illinois at 2 p.m. Earlier this season the Golden Eagles swept every match from the Panthers for a 7-0 victory. The women will face fourth-seeded Jacksonville State in the first round in a rematch of last season's first round. Back in March, the Gamecocks snuck by Tech 5-2 in Jacksonville. Match time is 10 a.m. at the Larry Heflin Tennis Center.