At their annual end of the year dinner on Wednesday the University of Utah men’s tennis team (13-12, 3-6 Pac-12) announced their team awards in the categories Most Inspirational, Most Improved and Most Valuable Player. And the winners are:
Junior Ben Tasevac
This years MVP award goes to junior Ben Tasevac. Tasevac, a walk on from Skyline High School, was the revelation of the 2012/2013 season with a dual record of 18-7 (23-10 overall) mainly from the No. 6 singles position.
In his first full season as a starter, Tasevac had victories over regionally ranked opponents UNLV and BYU, but made a really big splash in the Pac-12 with wins over Arizona, Oregon (twice), Cal Berkeley, USC, Washington and Oregon. His biggest win of his career so far came against No. 104 nationally ranked Max de Vroome (USC) who last year made it to the quarterfinals of the junior French Open and was ranked as high as No. 21 on the junior world rankings.
It marks the first time in nearly a decade (Nick Coutts, 2004/2005) that the recognition has been awarded to a player who didn’t represent the U at the top singles position.
Sophomore Slim Hamza remains undefeated in Pac-12 play.
This year’s Most Inspirational Award has gone to sophomore Slim Hamza. Hamza, a native of Kairouan, Tunisia has been one of the top players for the U for the past two years and finished the year playing at the top singles position after battling a back injury.
Hamza started the season off ranked No. 37 in the nation and made it to the round of 16 at the ITA All-American Championships in Tulsa, Oklahoma beating No. 36 Hernus Pieters (Georgia) and No. 69 Spencer Wolff (Northwestern). He made it to the finals of the annual Utah Intercollegiate tournament losing to fellow Ute Dmytro Mamedov in the finals. After a hick up in his first match at the ITA Regionals in Las Vegas, Nevada, Hamza redeemed himself by winning the consolation bracket.
In February, Hamza represented Tunisia in the Davis Cup against Latvia, losing to world’s No. 47 Ernesto Gulbis in three sets. But, upon his return to Utah a nagging back injury caused him to miss a good portion of the season. Upon his return Hamza finished the season 5-3 at Pac-12 play with ranked victories over No. 24 Adrien Puget (@ UCLA) and No. 117 Nolan Paige (@ Stanford). He finishes the season 10-8 in dual matches, 22-11 overall and is currently ranked No. 107 in the nation.
Sophomore Cedric Willems
A native of The Hague, the Netherlands, Cedric Willems has been named the Most Improved Player of the 2012/2013 season.
After competing at the No’s. 2 and 3 singles positions early in the season, the dutchman, was moved lower in the line up and became nearly invincible going a combined 10-4 from the No’s. 5 and 6 singles positions.
In his first competitive semester at Utah, he earned notable victories over San Diego State, UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara. In Pac-12 play he earned a 5-3 record with wins over Oregon, Washington, USC, Stanford and Arizona. He earned his first ever win over a ranked opponent on April 6, 2013 beating USC’s Michael Grant, ranked No. 87 in the country. He finishes the year a combined 14-6 on the season, second best on the team.
The Most Academic Award will be named later this summer and will be awarded to the student-athlete with the highest combined GPA over the 2012/2013 school year.