Regional Honors Pour in for Sooners
NORMAN – Oklahoma men’s tennis head coach Nick Crowell and players Spencer Papa, Jake Van Emburgh and Mason Beiler have all earned ITA Central Region recognition, the Intercollegiate Tennis Association announced Saturday.
Crowell has been tabbed Wilson/ITA Central Region Coach of the Year while Papa is the region’s Senior Player of the Year. Van Emburgh has been named Central Region Player to Watch and Beiler brings home Rookie of the Year honors.
Spencer Papa — ITA Central Region Senior Player of the Year
A redshirt senior, Papa has provided invaluable leadership to the Sooners. Papa reentered the lineup in 2019 after sitting the 2018 season with a torn ACL. Since returning, the Oklahoma native has tallied eight wins on the season with five of those over ranked opponents, all at the No. 1 line. In 2019, Papa was named to the All-Big 12 singles second team for the second time in his career and has qualified for his second career NCAA singles championships appearance.
Papa was a 2019 recipient of OU’s Athletics Director’s Leadership Award, which is given to student-athletes who demonstrate extraordinary leadership in representing the University of Oklahoma and their teams. The award recognizes the special qualities of being a leader, including mental toughness, ability to work with others, giving respect and gaining the respect of others, integrity and accountability.
Papa becomes the sixth OU player to receive Central Region Senior Player of the Year honors and joins Sooner greats Marek Velicka (2007), Ionut Belelu (2011), Costin Paval (2013), Guillermo Alcorta (2014) and Axel Alvarez Llamas (2016) on that list.
Jake Van Emburgh — ITA Central Region Player to Watch
After garnering the 2018 Central Region Rookie of the Year Award, Van Emburgh has been selected as the 2019 Central Region Player to Watch, given annually to the top returning player in each district.
Van Emburgh compiled a 13-7 record in his sophomore season playing between courts two and three. The Sooner clinched OU’s upset of then-No. 21 Florida State with a straight-sets win on court two. Van Emburgh reached a career-high ranking of No. 57 in singles while tallying three victories over ranked opponents.
Prior to the season, Van Emburgh won the singles title at the 2018 Oracle/ITA National Summer Championships, winning all six of his matches in the tournament in straight sets.
Mason Beiler — ITA Central Region Rookie of the Year
In his debut season with the Sooners, freshman Beiler led the team in singles wins with a 15-6 record. Beiler won nine straight matches from February to April for the team’s longest winning streak of the season. A native of New Port Richey, Fla., Beiler won 13 of his matches in straight sets. The freshman clinched four contests, including OU’s 4-3 win over Texas A&M in the NCAA second round to send the Sooners to the round of 16. The freshman saved seven match points in a wild third set tiebreaker to seal the match for Oklahoma.
Additionally, Beiler was a recipient of OU’s Jay Myers Outstanding Freshman Award, given to freshman student-athletes who best combine excellence in scholarship with potential excellence in their chosen field of athletics endeavor.
Nick Crowell — Wilson/ITA Central Region Coach of the Year
In his third season at the helm for the Sooners, Crowell led OU to its 10th straight NCAA tournament berth, as well as the program’s seventh round of 16 appearance. During the 2019 season, OU played one of the toughest schedules in the nation and downed eight ranked opponents, including an upset of then-No. 13 Texas A&M in the NCAA second round.
Crowell led three players to All-Big 12 honors: Spencer Papa and Alex Bakshi in singles and Bakshi and Stefano Tsorotiotis in doubles. Under Crowell’s tutelage, Papa and Bakshi qualified for NCAA singles tournament and Bakshi and Tsorotiotis punched their tickets for the doubles championships to mark the third consecutive season OU has sent multiple players to the individual championships.
Under Crowell, the Sooners posted a perfect APR score and four OU players earned Academic All-Big 12 accolades.
The award is the second for Crowell, who was tabbed Wilson/ITA Central Region Coach of the Year in 2018.
The Sooners return to the court Monday for the NCAA Singles and Doubles National Championships, held at the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Fla. Papa and Bakshi will compete in the 64-player singles draw while Bakshi and Stefano Tsorotiotis compete in the 32-team doubles bracket. Times and draws will be announced at a later time.