ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) – Various players for the No. 23 UCF women’s tennis team dominated all season long in the American Athletic Conference, which led them to some of the highest awards the conference can bestow. One Knight was named Player of the Year, another Freshman of the Year and three Knights are a part of the all-conference team. Head coach Bryan Koniecko was also tabbed as the league's Coach of the Year.
Valeriya Zeleva has been named the American Athletic Conference Player of the Year. Zeleva has compiled a 17-5 record so far this season at the No. 1 singles position and has defeated nine ranked opponents. She started the season winning nine straight singles matches before losing her first match in a third-set tiebreaker. Zeleva also was remarkable at the top doubles spot all season with her partner Ksenia Kuznetsova. The pair has posted a 12-4 record and won their first eight matches together.
Zeleva went on to become the AAC Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. She went 2-0, topping two of the best singles players in the conference in straight sets. Considering that Zeleva had come to UCF at the start of the 2019 calendar year, the season she has had thus far has been nothing short of remarkable. Zeleva is the first UCF player to win a conference Player of the Year award since Emmanuelle Sauze was named the Atlantic Sun Player of the Year in 2002.
Marie Mattel gets the nod as Freshman of the Year in the American Athletic Conference. She is the second consecutive Knight to win the honor. Rebeka Stolmar won the award in 2018 after posting a record of 21-2. Mattel started her 2019 campaign similar to Zeleva’s, winning her first eight singles matches. Mattel has earned a singles record of 14-5 and was almost a sure point for the Knights every time she was out there. In doubles, she performed at an even higher level, collecting a 19-4 record with four different partners.
Just like Zeleva, Mattel arrived at UCF in January of this year. Zeleva and Mattel made the quick adjustment and performed at an elite level. There is no doubt that they have been recognized for their efforts.
Zeleva, Kuznetsova and Stolmar were each named to the 12-member all-conference team. In the spring of 2018, the Knights had two All-Conference players, Maria Martinez and Stolmar.
Zeleva was a unanimous all-conference selection. As mentioned, she has gone 17-5 in singles and 12-4 in doubles. Kuznetsova has been outstanding in both singles and doubles play. She has compiled a 24-8 record in her 2018-2019 season, good enough for a tie of fourth place on UCF’s single season wins list. Her record matches that of Zeleva in doubles. Stolmar has been tremendous at the No. 3 spot for the Knights, going 14-4 this season in singles. She has teamed up lately with Mattel in doubles, but overall Stolmar has compiled a 15-4 record in the doubles session. To this point in her career, Stolmar has a 42-9 record in singles play through three semesters of competition.
To wrap up the accolades, head coach Bryan Koniecko was named The American Coach of the Year for the second consecutive season. During his three seasons at the helm, he has posted a 55-17 (.764) record and was the fastest UCF women’s tennis coach to 50 victories at the helm of the program. At home, his teams have won 41 of their 47 matches at the UCF Collegiate Tennis Center at the USTA National Campus. Koniecko has piloted the Knights to two 20+ win seasons in his three seasons at UCF. Prior to his arrival, the Knights had accomplished just four such seasons.
The Knights will face the No. 37 Alabama Crimson Tide in the first round of the NCAA tournament this Friday at 2 p.m. in Tallahassee. The winner will advance to play the winner of the FSU/South Alabama match on Saturday at 5 p.m.
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