UGA women’s tennis players Elena Christofi, Ellen Perez and Caroline Brinson garnered ITA Southeast Region awards.
Elena Christofi received ITA Rookie of the Year honors, while Ellen Perez became the ITA Player to Watch. Caroline Brinson was honored with the ITA/Arthur Ashe Leadership and Sportsmanship Award. The seven ITA regional award winners for each category now vie for national award recognition, which will be released on Tuesday, May 23rd.
In the ITA singles rankings, Christofi, a native of Athens, Greece, lands at No. 20, the highest in the Southeast Region for a freshman and overall the fifth-best freshman ranking in the nation. Christofi ended the regular season with a 28-5 overall singles record and a 17-2 dual season showing. She led the Southeastern Conference with nine wins on court No. 2 singles en route to being named First-Team All-SEC and SEC Co-Freshmen of the Year. In the fall, she maneuvered through six opponents to capture the 2016 ITA Southeast Regional Singles title, while simultaneously reaching the finals in doubles at the same tournament. Christofi and partner Kennedy Shaffer, ranked 38th in ITA doubles, are 15-4 together and their 10 conference wins tied for the most on court No. 2 in conference play. This is the sixth regional rookie of the year award a Georgia player has received, with the most recent being Lauren Herring in 2012.
Perez, a junior from Shellharbour, Australia, fit the bill as ITA’s Player to Watch, which is defined by one of the top returning regional players next year. Ranked 12th in ITA singles and third in ITA doubles with Brinson, Perez represents the highest-ranked Bulldog in both areas. Perez is 13-6 overall in singles on the No. 1 court, while She and Brinson managed an 8-3 conference record, also on court one. Prior to the NCAA Tournament, Perez gathered All-SEC First Team honors, her fourth conference award in three years. This is the fifth Bulldog to receive the Regional Player to Watch award. Agata Cioroch was the most recent Georgia player to receive the award in 2002.
The ITA/Arthur Ashe Leadership and Sportsmanship Award is given to a junior or senior that displays success on the court and off the court while doing so in an honorable fashion. Brinson, of New Orleans, suits the honor well as she was named to the SEC Community Service Team for the second year in a round and embodies the leadership role on the team being the lone senior. This year Brinson, ranked 66th in ITA singles, has compiled a 22-8 singles record thus far, pushing her career mark to just north of 90 wins. In doubles, she has amassed 21 wins this season, putting her career total at 83 victories. In the fall, she won the ITA Southeast Regional Consolation Singles title, a year after winning the main draw. On the court, Brinson displays sportsmanship to her opponents and officials, while she carries that same respect off the court to the community. This past spring, she participated in her fourth Special Olympics baseball game in as many years in addition to having a hand in “Girl Power Day” which involves female Georgia athletes education young girls in the Athens area about eating healthy, being a good leader, studying hard and cultivating friendships. She also assisted in Barrow Elementary’s “Safe Walks to School” program and served as a UGA Office of Student Affairs Athlete Representative for Dinner with the Dean. Brinson became the third Bulldog ever to be honored with the ITA/Arthur Ashe Leadership and Sportsmanship Award. The previous two were given to Cameron Ellis and Kate Fuller in 2011 and 2013, respectively.
Georgia continues play in the NCAA Championships Friday against 12th-ranked Pepperdine in the Round of 16. The match is scheduled for Fri., May 19th at 4 p.m. at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex.