WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - While the No. 41 Purdue men's tennis team (20-13, 7-4 Big Ten) completed its season last weekend at the NCAA Championships, the Boilermakers continue to be recognized for their accomplishments on and off the court. The Intercollegiate Tennis Association announced this week that four of the program's players and coaches won honors in the Ohio Valley Region and will be included on the national ballot.
Pawel Gajdzik received the region's Coach of the Year award for the first time in his career after leading Purdue to its best finish since 1987 (21-11). The eight-year veteran also matched his top Big Ten record (2014), picking up five-straight conference wins to end the regular season. Additionally, those victories helped secured the team a spot in the NCAAs for the first time in three years.
"It's a great honor," Gajdzik said. "I'm thankful to my peers to select me for this award, and I think it speaks to our program - where we've been and what we've accomplished. Coach of the Year represents the success of the team; our guys have shown tremendous improvement over the last two years and this honor is a result of their hard work and their wins."
Francisco Stuardo Vargas was also recognized as the region's Assistant Coach of the Year. In his first season with the Boilermakers, Stuardo Vargas worked closely with the program's two freshmen, who combined, finished 37-17 in dual-match singles contests. That mark also includes a perfect 8-0 record in Purdue's four wins over ranked opponents - No. 23 Illinois, No. 30 Wisconsin, No. 33 Minnesota and No. 45 Tulsa.
"No one is more deserving of this award than Francisco," Gajdzik said. "It's been a pleasure to work with him this past year, and he's clearly made a significant impact on the program.
He entered with high credentials having played and coached on the tour, and Purdue men's tennis is focused on providing our players with the knowledge and experience to compete professionally. More so, though, I think Francisco was the glue that bonded the strengths of our team. He brought all of us together and worked especially close with our two freshmen.
Our guys see him working tirelessly, and they know he wants the absolute best for them. Their successes on the court stem from that."
One of Purdue's two freshmen, Stephan Koenigsfest, who was an early enrollee in January, received the region's ITA Rookie of the Year award. In his first season, he led the team with 19 dual-match singles wins and was tied for first with eight Big Ten dual wins and 10 non-conference dual wins. In those matches, he primarily competed at the number four position, but was perfect when playing in the top two spots. Additionally, he ended the season on a six-match win-streak, earning one of Purdue's two points at the NCAA Championships.
Ricky Medinilla, the last Boilermaker to receive Rookie of the Year, bookended his carrier with the region's Senior Player of the Year award. He began his final campaign with a six-match win streak at the 2016 ITA All-American Championships with his doubles partner, Gergely Madarasz. The pair knocked off five currently ranked tandems on their journey to the semifinals, which earned the duo a program high No. 4 national ranking. In the spring, Medinilla competed at the top two positions for Purdue and posted a final 20-11 overall record in doubles for the season. In singles, Medinilla was ranked as high as No. 123, competing on the top two courts.
"It's validation for what these two players have accomplished," Gajdzik said.
"Ricky worked hard, played No. 1 and 2 for us in both singles and doubles, and was a leader on this team. He achieved so much during his four years as a Boilermaker and grew tremendously as a player. Now, he's going on to represent Mexico in Taipei at the 2017 Summer Universiade."
Universiade, or better known as the World University Games in the United States, is the same competition that the Purdue men's basketball team will compete in at the end of August. The Boilermakers were selected to represent the U.S. as its national team in 2017.
"Ricky's path is what we hope for all of our athletes - to become a more experienced player in college to then compete at a higher level professionally," Gajdzik continued.
Stephan is following that same path. He enrolled in January and immediately established himself. He led the team in [dual-match singles] wins and has a bright future ahead of him. He could become one of Purdue's greatest players; he's an exceptional athlete, person and student."
The Ohio Valley Region consists of 22 men's tennis programs, including in-state rival Indiana as well as No. 32 Kentucky, No. 34 Memphis, No. 42 Louisville, No. 44 Tennessee and No. 46 Vanderbilt. Only No. 2 Virginia of the Atlantic received more regional awards (5); No. 3 Ohio State tied Purdue's mark with four in the Midwest.
Winners from the ITA's national balloting will be announced on May 23.