NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin tennis team racked up the postseason hardware this evening, as the Skyhawks produced the most All-Ohio Valley Conference honorees of any member institution. Sarah Candeloro earned All-OVC first team honors while Hitomi Naito and Asel Jumamukhambetova were named to the All-OVC second team by the league’s head coaches.
The postseason awards were announced tonight at the OVC’s annual banquet, located at the Holiday Inn Nashville-Vanderbilt on the eve of the 2017 OVC Championships.
Naito becomes just the third player in program history to earn All-OVC status in all four years, joining Angela Olsen (1994-97) and Amy Goff (1992-96). This marks the third straight year of All-OVC honors for Candeloro, who is one of three players in UT Martin history to win All-OVC first team accolades in back-to-back seasons. Tonight’s announcement also results in the first All-OVC accolade for Jumamukhambetova.
It was clear from the fall that Candeloro would have a special season, as she advanced to the Round of 16 in the ITA Regional Championships in October. The senior from Dover, Del. won adidas OVC Player of the Week honors twice (March 29, April 12) and was responsible for a team-best 24-5 singles record (all at No. 1) in 2016-17. In singles, she won 13 straight decisions during the fall and posted a 7-2 record against OVC opponents. She also added a 19-5 doubles mark at No. 1, including an unblemished 8-0 OVC record alongside Jemima Potter. The Candeloro/Potter tandem carries a 10-match winning streak into this weekend’s OVC Championships, having not lost since March 4.
A Tokyo, Japan native, Naito pushed through a recurring arm injury but still battled at No. 2 in both singles and doubles all season. The senior went 10-9 overall with a 4-4 OVC record in singles, including an impressive win at Louisville in the spring opener while also defeating a pair of Preseason All-OVC honorees. In doubles, she produced a 13-9 record alongside partners Burcu Tari and Jumamukhambetova. Naito accounted for three separate winning streaks of three or more matches, including a four-match winning streak from March 4-9.
Jumamukhambetova emerged as a breakout star for UT Martin, as the sophomore from Atyran, Kazakhstan competed at four different spots (No. 2 through No. 5) in singles throughout the season. She accumulated a 22-5 singles record, which included a 9-0 record at No. 4 and an 8-1 mark against OVC foes. She won 10 straight head-to-head matchups in singles from March 4 through April 4 while also garnering a 15-11 doubles record with four separate teammates. On March 8, she was crowned as the adidas OVC Player of the Week.
The Skyhawks open their 24th all-time appearance in the OVC Championships on Saturday, April 22 when they play either No. 3 Eastern Kentucky or No. 6 Murray State at 10 a.m. UT Martin accumulated an 8-1 OVC record during the season to earn the No. 2 seed and an automatic berth into the tournament semifinals.