AKRON, Ohio -- The University of Akron women's tennis team recently held its annual year-end celebration to recognize both team and individual accomplishments during the 2013-14 season.
Head coach Brandon Padgett, who just completed his fourth year at the helm of the program, awarded several Zips for their performance on the court this year. Karolina Maksimava was named Most Improved Player, Olga Shkundina received the Coaches Award and Ksenia Berestetska earned Most Valuable Player honors.
Maksimava, a freshman from Mogilev, Belarus, exhibited an impressive turnaround from the beginning to the end of her rookie campaign, working her way to the top of the singles lineup. Although she played primarily at the No. 2 spot, Maksimava registered a pair of victories as the Zips' No. 1 player, with wins against Portland State and Oakland. Partnering with Martina Zerbola, she also recorded big doubles victories over Butler and Mid-American Conference foe Northern Illinois.
"Often times the Most Improved award is given based on the performance of a player from one year to the next, but this year, it is based on the improvement a player made from the fall season through the spring season," said Padgett. "Karolina's level of play rose significantly, and we saw great improvements in both singles and doubles. She listened to our coaching and worked hard at improving every day."
Shkundina, a junior from Ufa, Russia, was dominant in the early part of the season before she was held back due to injury. She started the spring season off by winning five of her first six matches at No. 1 singles, including a string of four in a row against West Virginia, Wright State, Dayton and Cleveland State. As the anchor on UA's first doubles team in the early part of the year, Shkundina earned five consecutive wins for the Zips, including a highly contested 7-6(6) triumph in the season-opener versus WVU.
"The Coaches Award is given to the player that has the intangibles that a coach is always looking for, and someone that shows great sportsmanship throughout the season," Padgett said. "Olga demonstrated this day in and day out. As she fought through a difficult injury, her demeanor and positive attitude rarely wavered."
Berestetska, a senior originally hailing from Kiev, Ukraine, finished her career at Akron ranked 14th all-time in wins in the history of the program, posting a combined singles record of 82-27 at UA. As a senior, she tallied a 27-8 overall singles record, playing mostly in the fourth spot, but was 4-1 at No. 3. Berestetska won 13 of her last 15 singles matches of the year, including a streak of six consecutive victories, and was 6-2 against MAC opponents.
"The Most Valuable Player Award is given to the player that stays strong mentally and physically through almost any situation," said Padgett. "This year, even with the team physically falling apart around her, Ksenia was able to keep her head together, and produce some amazing on-court results. We are extremely proud of the season that Ksenia had, as well as the career she had here at Akron."