Tempe, AZ – The Intercollegiate Tennis Association (“ITA”) is proud to announce the three finalists for the 2024 ITA Sally Ride STEM Award as endowed by Tam O’Shaughnessy.

Created to honor a female student-athlete who demonstrates zeal, dedication, and perseverance towards her tennis training and competition, STEM studies, and long-term goals, the ITA Sally Ride STEM Award serves as a symbol of the ability of women to shatter barriers.

As someone who shattered barriers herself, Dr. Sally Ride is cemented into history as the first woman to soar into space and has served as a role model for countless young women over the years through her bravery and perseverance to blaze new trails. 

In 2024 all of the finalists are following in the footsteps of Dr. Sally Ride both on the tennis courts and in the classroom as Hannah Kassaie (Case Western Reserve University), Nicole Kowak (Sewanee: The University of the South), and Allison Riley (Allegheny College) have all been named finalists. 

“The finalists for the 2024 ITA Sally Ride STEM Award are exceptional scholar-athletes,” said Tam O’Shaughnessy. “Just like Sally, each young woman built her strength of mind, body, and spirit through sports and science. And just like Sally, each will inspire the next generation of girls—through her example—to strive and persevere. To dream big!”

Now in the award’s third year, previous recipients of the ITA Sally Ride STEM Award include McKenzie Ferrari from UMass Dartmouth (2023) and Anna Tifrea from the California Institute of Technology (2022).

“This time each year is not only the culmination of the Spring college tennis season, but also Awards Season,” said  ITA Chief Executive Officer Dr. Timothy Russell. “College tennis is ultimately about higher education and developing championship human beings on and off the court. The ITA has one of the most robust awards programs in all of college athletics and the ITA Sally Ride STEM Award honors one of the best of the best in our sport. As is evident with all three of this year’s ITA Sally Ride STEM Award finalists, you will clearly see how and why our sport transforms lives and why these amazing young people will help change the world going forward.” 

Each year, the recipient of the award receives a grant in the amount of eight thousand dollars ($8,000) to pursue her dreams. The award money given to the student-athlete may be used in any way she wishes [e.g., tuition, books, rent, etc.]

Additionally, the ITA will donate two thousand dollars ($2,000) to the women’s tennis program of the institution from which the award winner graduated. 

Continue reading below for more information on each of this year’s finalists:


Hannah Kassaie | Case Western Reserve University | NCAA Division III

First picking up a racquet at the age of four, Hannah was drawn to the sport after watching her dad play as she wanted to play just as he did. However, often being too small to rally at this young age, Hannah had to learn how to be patient and to trust the process which she describes as two key skills in her life today as she studies to become a physician. Enrolling at Case Western Reserve, primarily for her academic aspirations, Hannah quickly found a second family with her teammates who have helped guide her through many difficult struggles both on and off the court. Currently, Hannah is wrapping up her undergraduate degree in which she is majoring in nutrition and minoring in natural sciences and chemistry. Hannah has been accepted into the Pre-Professional Scholars Program (PPSP) at Case Western Reserve and will attend the School of Medicine beginning in July 2025. Over the next year, Hannah will conduct genetics research at the Center of Excellence for Medical Genomics in Bangkok, Thailand where she plans to not only put her STEM studies into action but continue to teach tennis to others in her free time.

Nicole Nowak | Sewanee: The University of the South | NCAA Division III

Throughout Nicole’s life, both tennis and academics have been guiding fields in her growth as a person, teaching her numerous lessons that she utilizes each day of her life. At Sewanee, Nicole has been able to put these two guiding fields into practice daily through her participation on the varsity tennis team as well as in her STEM studies. Through tennis, Nicole has learned the power of working with others and for others, finding the power in synergy of strong individuals. In the classroom, she has taken away many just as profound lessons including the power of community and lifting up others around you to achieve collective success. Currently, Nicole is in the final stretch of her undergraduate program where she is majoring in mathematics with a minor in biology. Upon graduation, Nicole will be attending the Physician Assistant Program at Lipscomb University where she plans to become a physician assistant with a specialization in oncology. 

Allison Riley | Allegheny College | NCAA Division III

With tennis always being at the forefront of Allison’s life, it wasn’t until she was much older that she realized just how much the sport meant to her. After battling through some health battles in high school, Allison quickly realized her tennis journey was not yet finished as she would enroll at Allegheny College to continue her athletic and academic journeys. Winning a conference championship in her junior year, Allison’s collegiate journey has been one of many ups and downs but throughout it all, her love for the sport never wavered. Meanwhile, off the court, her success has been just as noteworthy as Allison has been working on a comprehensive project over the past year which studies the reemergence of malaria in the United States due to the influence of climate change. Currently, Allison is nearing the completion of her undergraduate studies where she is double-majoring in Environmental Science and Global Health. After graduating from Allegheny, Allison will pursue a Master of Public Health degree from the University of Pittsburgh. Here, Allison will focus on epidemiology which will allow her to pursue her goal of improving the health of populations and the surrounding environment. 


About The ITA: The Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) is the governing body and coaches association of college tennis, both an advocate and an authority for the sport and its members. Comprised of 1,260 colleges and universities, 20,000 student-athletes, 1,700 varsity programs, 3,000 coaches, and 1,400 college tennis officials, the ITA empowers college tennis coaches at all levels to deliver vibrant tennis programs that are vital to their college communities and transformational to their student-athletes. Follow the college tennis season on the ITA website and ITA social channels on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, and YouTube.

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