SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The Intercollegiate Tennis Association announced its 2019 Division 1 Southwest Regional winners on Saturday with two UC Santa Barbara representatives earning individual awards.
First, Associate Head Coach Blake Muller was named the ITA Assistant Coach of the Year. This is his second win in the last three years. Second, star senior Nicolas Moreno de Alboran was awarded the ITA' Most Improved Senior.
Since arriving in 2014, Muller's impact has been felt immediately.
In his five years, Muller has helped coach the team to a conference record five-straight tournament titles and even helped the Gauchos capture their first win in the NCAA tournament since 1998 this past year.
Just this past season, Muller was promoted from assistant to associate head coach. Muller's primary responsibilities include recruiting, player development and scheduling.
"Blake has been assistant coach of the year in our region two of the last three years and the only reason he didn't win it three straight times is you could only nominate every other year. It is not an accident that since he came here five years ago we have won five straight Big West Championships and this year went to the second round of there NCAA Tournament," Head Coach Marty Davis said.
As for Moreno de Alboran, the senior has had a stellar season. This year, Moreno de Alboran amassed a 28-8 overall mark and was 15-3 in dual match play. He is 7-5 against ranked opponents and will be participating in the NCAA singles and doubles championships beginning on Monday, May 20.
In addition, Moreno de Alboran has set a litany of program records while at UCSB including reaching the highest ranking of any UCSB player (as high as No. 6).
Last season, Moreno de Alboran won a match at the NCAA singles championships becoming the first Gaucho to do so since 1995. This year, the senior will look to go even further as he is a top-16 seed heading into the tournament.
"The coaches got it right last year when they voted him as a player to watch. He came in ranked 129 in ITF juniors and now he is 16th in the country. He has moved past something like 400 players and it is hard to imagine anyone has improved more than him. His improvement from his freshman year to his junior year was astronomical and his improvement from his junior year to this year gives him a legitimate chance to win the [national] award," Davis said.
Moreno de Alboran and Muller will be placed on the national ballot. The ITA's national award winners will be announced on Monday, May 20.