NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - For the third time in four years, George Washington's Francisco Dias has been named the Atlantic 10 Conference Men's Tennis Most Outstanding Performer of the Year, as voted on by the league's head coaches. In the same vote, VCU's Catalin Fifea was named Most Outstanding Rookie of the Year, while Richmond's Ben Johnson earned Coach of the Year accolades.
Dias has helped lead the Colonials to a trio of Atlantic 10 Championships, winning in 2012, 2014 and 2015. Earlier this season, Dias set a new record at GW for career singles victories (87), breaking the previous record (84) set by current Chairman of the Board, CEO and President of the USTA and GW Athletics Hall of Fame member David Haggerty ('75-'79). This season, the Lisbon, Portugal, native had ranked wins over #48 Jeremy Efferding of Texas A&M and #121 Joao Monteiro of Virginia Tech in singles, and a doubles win against #66 Lucas Hejhal and Vaidik Munshaw of St. John’s. As a rookie in 2012, Dias was named the Atlantic 10's Most Outstanding Performer and Most Outstanding Rookie performer, becoming the first ever A-10 men's student-athlete to earn both honors in the same year. Francisco's career-best ITA singles ranking was 64, while his best ITA doubles ranking was 34, and has earned A-10 First Team All-Conference honors four times.
Fifea joined the Rams mid-year and played mostly in the No. 2 and No. 3 singles position, finishing overall at 18-7. The Bucharest, Romania, product helped lead VCU to its third straight A-10 Championship finals, where he went 2-0 in singles play against George Mason and George Washington. The sophomore picked up a ranked win against #107 Leonard Stakhovsky from Penn State, as the Rams beat the #41 Nittany Lions, 4-3 earlier this spring.
This is the first Coach of the Year nod for Ben Johnson, who has been at the helm in Richmond for five seasons. Johnson has led the Spiders to three semifinals appearances in the last four years and the top seed in the 2015 Championship, after finishing the spring season 16-6. Heading into the A-10 Championship, the Spiders had won nine straight matches, including wins over UMBC and Georgetown.
Joining Dias on the 12-member all-conference first team are fellow Colonials Chris Fletcher and Danil Zelenkov; Davidson's Shamael Chaudhry and Artem Khrapko; Duquesne's Rich Robbie; George Mason's Jimmy Lange; Richmond's Ethan and Jacob Dunbar; and VCU's Catalin Fifea, Wilder Pimentel and Michal Voscek.
The all-conference second team consists of Dayton's Zach Berry and Carsten Fisher; Duquesne's Alex Aleman; George Mason's Tanner Baine and Aaron Capitel; GW's Christos Hadjigeorgiou, Cahit Kapukiran and Julius Tverijonas; Richmond's Canyon Teague; and Saint Joseph's Pierre Brondeau, Kyle Chalmers, and Andres Urrea.
The all-academic team, which is voted on by the league's sports information directors, includes Duquesne's Corey Robinson; George Mason's Aaron Capitel; GW's Julius Tverijonas and Danil Zelenkov; Saint Joseph's Kyle Chalmers and Andres Urrea; Miguel Flores of Saint Louis; and VCU's Michal Voscek. A tie in votes for the final spot resulted in an eight-member team.