BEAVER TOWNSHIP — Last spring, the YSU men’s and women’s tennis teams achieved a first in their programs’ history when both teams won the Horizon League Championship and earned a berth in the NCAA Championships. .
It was a goal Penguins men’s coach Ulises Hernandez and women’s coach Mickael Sopel had talked about since Hernandez arrived in the fall of 2018.
Sopel, who is currently in France and will not return to YSU until the end of the summer, guided both teams for five seasons before handing over the men’s reins to Hernandez.
With hard work and top-notch recruiting classes, the two coaches have transformed their programs into two of the most respected in the Midwest.
“I was a volunteer assistant coach at Cornell University, an unpaid position and I was looking for a new challenge,” Hernandez told the Curbstone Coaches during Monday’s weekly lunch meeting at the Avion Banquet Center. “It was May 2018 when I applied for the open men’s position at YSU and Mickael decided to just serve as the women’s coach.
“Early August, Elaine Jacobs called to ask if I was still interested and I jumped at the chance. Under Mickael he helped grow the program and as we added new indoor courts and recruiting classes we continued that growth and things took off from there.
While the Penguins’ women’s team has won six playoff league titles, been to six NCAA championships and reached the Horizon League Tournament title game seven of the last eight under Sopel, the men’s transformation took a little longer to materialize, culminating in ’22 when Hernandez guided his team to their first Horizon League title – they won both the regular season and tournament crowns – and his entire first appearance in the NCAA.
“I knew we had the talent, it was about putting everything in place” Hernandez added. “When I started, we decided to go international in terms of recruitment and found almost instant results. The focus now is on retaining and adding the right players, whether they are American or international.
Building on their success last season, the Penguins also won Horizon League playoff awards with Hernandez earning Coach of the Year honors, Laurentiu Mandocescu named Player of the Year, Clement Mainguy selected as a student freshman of the year and Erik Gran the recipient of the conference’s Herb Foster Sportsmanship Award. .
Mandocescu (No 1), Mainguy (No 3) and Harry Fouzas (No 2) were each Premier League selections.
The team was completed by Nathan Favier (#4), David Alvarez Moreno (#5), Will Everett (#6), Erik Gran (injured in mid-March and lost for the rest of the season), Asier Pena Ibanez and Javi Gonzalez Pla.
On the women’s side of the ledger, YSU won the league’s postseason championship and qualified for NCAA regionals for the first time since 2018.
They have won 15 of their last 16 Horizon League tournament games with Cecelia Rosas earning first-team conference honors, and Eliska Masarikova and Elisa Rigazio second-team honours.
In Horizon League singles matches, YSU went 26-10 combined with Julia Marko (22-13 overall) and Rigazio (22-8) leading the team with five wins apiece. Their 22 total wins were one win shy of the program mark for wins in a season.
In doubles, the Penguins went 10-5 in conference play.
Rosas, Rigazio and Masarikova each won Horizon League Singles Player of the Week, while Rigazio-Rosas and Jessica Stanmore-Lili Minich were honored as Doubles Player of the Week during the season. .
The women’s championship team was completed by Maria Oliveira, Elvira Esteo and Moka Ito.
The men’s team went 15-9 overall, unbeaten (8-0) in the conference, while the women were 13-10 overall and 5-1 in the league.
Next Monday, the YSU Horizon League champion women’s lacrosse and indoor and outdoor track and field champions will be honored by the organization.