Barry's Maria Lopez Tabbed Top Tennis Assistant in DII
Barry University women's assistant tennis coach Maria Lopez was named the Intercollegiate Tennis Association NCAA Division II National Assistant Coach of the Year.
Lopez helped guide the Buccaneers to a No. 2 national ranking and 26-1 record this season, which ended Friday in the NCAA Championships semifinals.
In her third year as a coach with the Bucs, Lopez was part of the 2011 national championship team in her current capacity. She was a two-time All-American as a player at Barry. She capped her career ranked third all-time in doubles wins with 73.
"I wouldn't see anybody else being national coach of the year," senior Julie Stas said. "It's not only that she does a lot, she does it right. I think she's one of the only persons that can calm me down. She is passionate, and I hope we are taking that as an example."
Lopez has been one of the most influential figures in the tennis program the past couple years -- a trait head coach Avi Kigel says he couldn't do without.
"She was a big reason we were able to win the national championship last year," Kigel said. "She's a big part of what this program has accomplished the last couple years. The girls really relate to her, they trust her, and therefore, they listen to what she has to say."
For Lopez, all the sweat and energy she's poured into the program is symbolic of her commitment to the Buccaneers program.
"It's obviously a great personal achievement," Lopez said. "I don't really do this job for those things. I do not know how many schools there are in Division II in the nation, so to be chosen as one of the best, it's a big thing. I'm not gonna say it doesn't mean anything to me. Of course it's something that makes me feel really good.
"Every day I'm getting something in return when I 'm with the girls, with the team, with Avi, I'm learning something every day, watching them grow as players and people. What I really enjoy the most is to know the girls think that of me.
"To watch my team win a national championship, that's really the best moment I've had in my college athletics as a player and as a coach. To have that feeling again that I had and that the girls have, I think that's more important."