The tennis team comes together to cheer each other on at a match Oct. 12.

SIUE’s women’s tennis team was recently recognized by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, earning the 2021 Division I Women ITA All-Academic Team award. The ITA also recognized five student-athletes with the 2021 ITA Scholar-Athlete award.

The team achieved a 3.5 grade point average for the Fall 2020 semester and a 3.6 for the Spring 2021 semester, placing them well above the 3.2 cumulative GPA that ITA requires for a team to be named All-Academic. While the SIUE team has consistently taken home this award since 2012 under different coaches, the last three years have been under the direction of Head Coach Adam Albertsen.

“We are lucky. We have a really good group that competes on the court and in the classroom,” Albertsen said. “They work really, really hard and I’ve just been very, very lucky to have this group and they push for great success in the classroom.”

Albertsen said the team did an awesome job individually and as a whole through all the challenges the last year has brought them.

“I just can't say how proud I am of this whole group,” Albertsen said. “The whole team really did very, very well this school year and semester. We have some challenging majors with engineering and pre-med and bio and nursing. This is a group that really works hard and I'm very proud of them.”

Redshirt sophomore Jill Lambrechts, a biological sciences major from Antwerp, Belgium, who is also minoring in math and chemistry, said the award is an honor.

“I always knew we were doing great in the classroom but ... it's an honor to receive [the All-Academic Team] award, I think for the whole team,” Lambrechts said. “It’s really nice to get that one.”

Lambrechts, Jordan Schifano, Fabiola Perez, Melissa Vizcardo and Vanessa Reinicke were awarded ITA Scholar-Athlete honors for holding an individual GPA of 3.5 or above. Lambrechts, Reinicke and Vizcardo all held a 4.0 GPA. This marks the second year Lambrechts, Reinicke and Vizcardo have earned the individual Scholar-Athlete awards.

Beyond the court, Lambrechts said Albertsen helps to motivate the team to excel.

“He's very up to date with everything. He always asks us about how our classes are going and he knows our grades, so he asks about those as well. Also, he tries to motivate us in the classroom and also in the tennis court,” Lambrechts said. “I think it's just because the girls, we all like him and then he gives us team spirit as well.”

Vizcardo, a redshirt sophomore and international business and finance major from Houston, Texas, also credited Albertsen for his support.

“He's awesome, he really highlights academics and athletics because obviously, you need to have good grades to play, so I love him as a coach,” Vizcardo said. “I obviously like athletics and tennis but also academics, which makes him an awesome coach because I feel like a lot of coaches don't really emphasize as much as he does on the academic portion.”

Lambrechts said the team keeps each other accountable and that really helps them all stay focused.

“I think it's good that we're in a team so we know if one person has to study, we make these study groups sometimes,” Lambrechts said. “Or say at that time we're going out to do something but before we go, we need to study first, and it's just very good that we're still a team so everyone can talk about it, and then you motivate each other in that way.”

The organization and shared goal of the team to do well at academics and athletics is what really makes them a successful team, Vizcardo said.

“It makes us be more together as we all want to succeed in the classroom as well as on the court, and I think we really do prioritize both academics and athletics. It's not just one or the other, which is really nice,” Vizcardo said. “That's what makes us closer as a team because we all have the same goals and aspirations.”

Lambrechts said in the future, as younger players join the team, she hopes she and the team can serve as leaders to them.

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