COOKEVILLE, Tenn. - With his first year in the books, Tennessee
Tech Tennis coach Dan Silverstein announced the team honors for
both his men's and women's squads at the annual Team Awards Dinner
Thursday night. Three new awards were presented along with the
Golden Eagle Award for both teams and the Johnny Donnelly Maverick
Sophmores Dean O'Brien and Kelly Holtzhausen captured the Golden Eagle Award as the Most Valuable Players on their teams, while redshirt freshman Yianni Doropoulos received the prestigious Maverick Award.
"These awards were so difficult to decide," Silverstein said. "Every player on the team could have gotten the awards. Every single one has given something of themselves to this team and program."
The Johnny Donnelly Maverick Award, named for the late Johnny Donnelly, was presented by his parents, John and Marty Donnelly of Cookeville. Johnny Donnelly was a true TTU sports fan who passed away in October of 1998 after a long-fought battle with muscular dystrophy. In 1999, he was first Golden Eagle fan to be inducted into the Tech Sports Hall of Fame.
The award is given annually to a member of either the men’s or women’s tennis team who exhibits the same kind of determination that Johnny showed. Despite not being eligible to compete this season, Doropoulos proved to be the ultimate team player, according to Silverstein.
"Yianni was out there supporting both teams during the matches from the sidelines, and he worked just as hard during practices as anybody. He has given his heart and soul to this team, and the team would have not been the same without him," Silverstein said.
The Golden Eagle Awards went to a pair of Golden Eagles players that were at the top of their game from September to the OVC Tournament.
For the men's team, O'Brien capped off a successful season in which he became only the third Golden Eagle to earn a national ranking with the highest at No. 102. In only the second match of the season he defeated then No. 29 Clint Bowles of Florida State. The Benmore, South Africa native went on to a an 18-2 record with a perfect 8-0 mark in the OVC. He was named the past two years to the All-OVC first-team and was named the 2009 OVC Player of the Year.
Holtzhauzen, from Port Elizabeth, South Africa, started off the spring with a 14-0 record before falling in only her first three-set match of the spring. She helped Tech improve up to a tie for third in the conference at 6-3, and earned first-team All-OVC honors after going 8-1 in the conference. In the regular season she downed the defending OVC Player of the Year from Jacksonville State in straight sets to go along with a win against No. 6 West Florida.
Silverstein introduced three new awards, presenting the Heart of a Champion Award, the Impact Player Award, and the Academic Award for each squad.
Justin Kirstein, a freshman from Johannesburg, South Africa, captured the "Heart of a Champion Award" on the men's team, while Katie Barnhill, a sophomore from New Braunfels, Texas, won the award on the women's squad.
Not only was Kirstein the best freshman on the team, he proved to be the top rookie in the Ohio Valley Conference. Going undefeated in the OVC at 8-0, he earned second-team All-OVC honors and was named the OVC Freshman of the Year. He clinched several wins for the Golden Eagles, tallying a 15-5 record in singles and a 12-7 log in doubles.
Barnhill stepped up and played three spots higher than she did a year ago and helped her team to a tie for third in the conference after finishing sixth last season.
The Impact Player Award, designed to go to a first-year player who has the greatest impact on the squad, went to a pair of players from Columbia, Laura Porras on the women's team and Oscar Pachon for the men's team.
Porras, a freshman from Tabio, Colombia, came to Tech in January and provided the depth the team was looking for. Her season included a four-match win streak, all straight-sets wins. She played even in her first season at 8-8, but dominated play in the OVC with a 7-2 record.
A native of Bogota, Colombia, Pachon compiled a 15-4 record playing primarily at number five. After starting the season slowly, he rebounded and finished the spring on a 15-1 run including wins over two players from nationally ranked teams. Among his triumphs was a three-set, come-from-behind win over Georgia Tech. He was pushed to three sets only four times all season.
Dr. Lance Jasitt, TTU Assistant Athletic Director for Academics, was on hand to present the inaugural Academic Awards, which went to freshman Joana Corkern from Bentonville, Ark., and Doropoulas. Corkern owns a 3.50 GPA, while Doropoulos has fashioned a 3.75 GPA.