The WTN Players of the Month awards honor men and women from all six divisions (NCAA Division I, II, III, NAIA, Junior College/California Community College, and Wheelchair) with monthly awards during the fall season.
The October WTN Players of the Month:
Gavin Young | Senior | Michigan | WTN 3.86
As an unseeded player, Michigan’s Gavin Young reached the ITA All-American Championship semifinals in Tulsa. In this quest to the final four, the junior from Apple Valley, Minnesota defeated #2 seed and 2023 NCAA semifinalist Chris Rodesch of Virginia, #8 seed JJ Tracy of Ohio State and #9-16 Peter Makk of USC. It was the second time in Young’s career that he recorded a win over a #2 ranked opponent, having defeated Stanford’s Nishesh Basavareddy last season on February 17. Young was also the recipient of the Sportsmanship Award.
Mary Stoiana | Junior | Texas A&M | WTN 5.52
Texas A&M junior Mary Stoiana wrote her name into history, becoming the first Aggie to win the ITA All-American Championship singles title in Cary, NC. On her way to the title, the Aggie junior beat five ranked players including NC State’s No. 110 Sophie Abrams 6-1, 1-6, 6-1, Oklahoma State’s No. 40 Ange Oby Kajuru 4-6, 6-4, 7-5, Georgia’s No. 6 Dasha Vidmanova 7-6(5), 7-5, and South Carolina’s No. 25 Sarah Hamner 7-5, 6-4. In a three-set championship battle against #3 Alexa Noel of Miami, No. 2 Stoiana found herself in trouble early, losing the first set 6-3 before rebounding back and taking the next set in a close 7-6(5) tiebreaker. The final set went to Stoiana in a decisive manner, dropping only one game to secure the historic win 6-1.
Baptiste Mercier | Junior | Flagler | WTN 9.58
Flagler’s Baptiste Mercier became the first player in program history to win the ITA Cup on Oct. 12-15 in Rome, Ga. Mercier recorded two straight-set victories to reach the semi-finals, where he prevailed over Valdosta State’s Takeshi Taco, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5. In the championship match, Mercier defeated #3 seed Tom Zeuch of UIndy, 6-4, 7-6(4).
Salma Djoubri | Sophomore | Lynn | WTN 8.64
Salma Djoubri of Lynn did not lose a set in six matches at the ITA to punch her ticket to the ITA Fall National Championships. In the D-II finals, Djoubri defeated Flagler’s Nadja Meier 7-6(2), 6-1, who last year broke the Division II-era record for wins in singles play, posting a 36-3 record.
Jordan Theron | Senior | Sewanee | WTN 9.63
Continuing a record-breaking fall season, Sewanee senior Jordan Theron swept the ITA Cup championships in singles and doubles. In the singles finals, Theron faced Emory’s Dean Kamenev for a rematch of the ITA Regional finals. Theron started with a dominant 6-0 first set win before closing out the second set 6-3. In eight singles and doubles matches in the D-III event, Theron did not drop a set. He and junior Quinn Wicklund defeated Kamanev and Nolan Shah in the doubles finale, 6-1, 6-4.
In addition to his success on the court, Theron was selected as the 2023 ITA Cup James O’Hara Sargent Sportsmanship Award winner. The Sportsmanship Award recognizes two student-athletes who exemplify the spirit of college tennis and show great sportsmanship through the tournament. To be eligible for the award, student-athletes must have reached the finals of the singles main draw.
Sylwia Mikos | Junior | Chicago | WTN 12.37
UChicago’s Sylwia Mikos cruised through play at the ITA Cup, taking down Claremont-Mudd-Scripps’ Lindsay Eisenman 6-1, 6-2 in the championship match. Dropping only one set to take home the singles title, Mikos claimed her second consecutive women’s singles crown at the event and looked ready to reclaim the top spot in the Division III Singles Rankings this season. Mikos was also selected as the 2023 ITA Cup James O’Hara Sargent Sportsmanship Award winner. As one of the top players in all of Division III women’s tennis over the past two seasons, Mikos has not only carried herself at a championship level with her play, but with her attitude as well, gaining a reputation of respect from opponents and coaches across the nation.
Alex Gurmendi | Senior | Georgia Gwinnett | Singles WTN 4.35
Santiago Villarruel | Sophomore | Georgia Gwinnett | Singles WTN 15.75
Georgia Gwinnett’s dynamic duo of senior Alex Gurmendi and sophomore Santiago Villarruel added the ITA Cup Men’s Doubles Super Bowl title to their impressive list of performances this fall. In the finals, Gurmendi and Villarruel defeated Washburn’s Santiago Rendon and Tim Hammes 6-1, 7-5. Rendon and Hammes won the D-II doubles crown. On the way to the title, the Grizzlies secured all six wins without dropping a set.
Violet Apisah | Junior | Keiser | Singles WTN 9.33
Vanja Vidanovic | Junior | Keiser | Singles WTN 16.34
Two days after capturing the ITA Cup NAIA doubles title, Violet Apisah and Vanja Vidanovic defeated Cowley CC’s Yerkezhan Arystanbekova and Arina Babenko 6-1, 6-3 to claim the program’s first ITA Cup Super Bowl Championship. The Keiser duo did not lose a set in their six matches.
Jean-Baptiste Badon | Freshman | Glendale Ca. | WTN 6.12
Glendale CA’s Jean-Baptiste Badon left his mark on the ITA Cup earlier this month by winning the Junior College and Super Bowl singles titles to earn a wild card entry into the ITA Fall National Championships. The #1 seed marched through the draw, defeating Eastern Florida State’s Hugo Car in a back-and-forth 6-0, 4-6, 6-1 victory, becoming the first-ever California Community College player to claim the Juco singles title in tournament history. Competing against Division II, III and NAIA champions, Badon continued to roll at the ITA Super Bowl, defeating Holy Cross’ Perry Gregg in the finals 6-3, 6-7(2), 6-4. Badon became the first California Community College player to win the Super Bowl.
Arina Babenko | Sophomore | Cowley | WTN 18.34
Cowley sophomore Arina Babenko swept the singles and doubles titles at the ITA Cup in Rome, GA. In doubles, Babenko and freshman Yerkezhan Arystanbekova did not lose a set, capping their run by defeating Hillsborough’s Yoana Dudova and Catherine Goldman 6-3, 6-2. In singles, Babenko defeated #2 seed Goldman in the semi’s, before beating top seed Arystanbekowva in the final.
Maria Velat | Sophomore | Michigan
During her sophomore year of high school, Velat suffered a spinal cord injury that limited the use of both her arms and legs. While growing up, Velat had an intense passion for a myriad of sports. Following her injury, that same passion for sports drove her to explore adaptive sports. The Michigan sophomore who now actively plays within the C division, was recently a finalist in the B division in the Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association Wheelchair Tennis Tournament.
When not playing in tournaments herself, Velat helps in growing the sport by assisting in various clinics and programs. In addition to being involved in the wheelchair tennis program at Michigan, Velat was one of just seven student-athletes and the only Wolverine to participate in the inaugural wheelchair track national championship at the Drake Relays.
Nicholas Tijerina | Graduate Student | Houston
During a middle school basketball practice in 2011, Tijerina was left paralyzed from the waist down following being struck by a stray bullet. Despite the unforeseen freak accident that occurred more than ten years ago, Tijerina has since paved the way for other adaptive sport athletes.
Tijerina has risen in the B rankings to as high as No. 5 in the nation. In April, Tijerina captured the singles ‘B’ draw title at the 2023 USTA Collegiate Wheelchair National Championships. This win marked a key milestone in his career, having just picked up the sport a little over a year ago this breakthrough result was clearly an emotional moment for the graduate student as lots of hard work and dedication led to this championship moment.
Tijerina graduated from Houston in May 2023 with a BS in Mechanical Engineering and is now pursuing an MS in Aerospace Engineering with a concentration in Control Systems and Dynamics.