YSU tennis honored at Curbstone Coaches’ weekly meeting
Both the men and the women won Horizon League titles
BEAVER TOWNSHIP — This past spring, the YSU men’s and women’s tennis teams accomplished a first in the history of their programs when both teams captured the Horizon League championship and earned a spot in the NCAA championships.
It was a goal that Penguins’ men’s coach Ulises Hernandez and women’s coach Mickael Sopel had talked about since Hernandez’s arrival in the fall of 2018.
Sopel, who is currently in France and will not return to YSU until late summer, guided both teams for five seasons before relinquishing the men’s reins to Hernandez.
With hard work and top recruiting classes, both coaches have transformed their programs into two of the most respected in the Midwest.
“I was serving as a volunteer assistant coach at Cornell University, an unpaid position and was seeking a new challenge,” Hernandez told the Curbstone Coaches during Monday’s weekly luncheon meeting at Avion Banquet Center. “It was in May of 2018 when I applied for the open men’s position at YSU and when Mickael decided to just serve as women’s coach.
“In early August, Elaine Jacobs called to ask if I was still interested and I jumped at the opportunity. Under Mickael, he helped grow the program and as we added new indoor courts and recruiting classes, we continued that growth and things just took off from there.”
While the Penguins’ women’s team has won six league postseason titles, appeared in six NCAA championships and reached the Horizon League tournament title match seven of the past eight years under Sopel, the men’s transformation has taken a little longer to materialize, coming to fruition in ’22 when Hernandez guided his team to its first Horizon League title – they won both the regular season and tournament crowns – and first ever NCAA appearance.
“I knew that we had the talent, it was a matter of putting it all together,” Hernandez added. “When I first started, we decided to go the international route in terms of recruiting and found almost instant results. The goal now is to sustain and add the right players, whether they are American or international.”
With their success this past season, the Penguins also swept Horizon League postseason awards with Hernandez earning Coach of the Year honors, Laurentiu Mandocescu named Player of the Year, Clement Mainguy selected as Freshmen of the Year and Erik Gran the conference’s Herb Foster Sportsmanship Award recipient.
Mandocescu (No. 1), Mainguy (No. 3) and Harry Fouzas (No. 2) were each first-team league selections.
Rounding out the team were Nathan Favier (No. 4), David Alvarez Moreno (No. 5), Will Everett (No. 6), Erik Gran (injured in mid-March and lost for remainder of season), Asier Pena Ibanez and Javi Gonzalez Pla.
On the women’s side of the ledger, YSU won the league’s postseason championship and advanced to the NCAA Regionals for the first time since 2018.
They won 15 of their last 16 Horizon League tournament matches with Cecelia Rosas earning conference first-team honors, and both Eliska Masarikova and Elisa Rigazio second-team laurels.
In Horizon League singles matches, YSU went a combined 26-10 with Julia Marko (22-13 overall) and Rigazio (22-8) leading the team with five wins each. Their 22 wins overall were one win shy of the program’s mark for wins in a season.
In doubles action, the Penguins went 10-5 in conference play.
Rosas, Rigazio and Masarikova each earned Horizon League singles Player of the Week honors while Rigazio-Rosas and Jessica Stanmore-Lili Minich were honored as doubles Players of the Week over the course of the season.
Rounding out the championship women’s team were Maria Oliveira, Elvira Esteo and Moka Ito.
The men’s team went 15-9 overall, going undefeated (8-0) in conference play while the women posted a 13-10 overall ledger and 5-1 league mark.
Next Monday, YSU’s Horizon League champion women’s lacrosse and indoor and outdoor track and field champions will be honored by the organization.