MEDFORD - After guiding the Tufts University men's tennis team to the NCAA "Final Four" for the first time in program history, one of several achievements by the team during the 2021-22 season, Karl Gregor was announced as the Wilson Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Division III National Coach of the Year today.
Earlier this spring Gregor received the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Coach of the Year award, and last week he was named as the ITA's Northeast Region Coach of the Year. Today's national award further confirms his leadership of the Jumbos through the most successful season in the program's history.
"There is a running joke on our team that Karl would be a starter," senior Isaac Gorelik said. "He is a very skilled tennis player, a great athlete, and a very knowledgeable coach. As impressive as he is on the tennis end, I believe it is his commitment to our team values which makes him the outstanding coach that he is. Though he is about as competitive as it gets, he's taught us time and time again that college tennis is about so much more than wins and losses. It's about the effort, the lessons and the many steps we take together to become better people, better teammates and better friends."
During the fall season, Jumbos won several singles and doubles titles at regional tournaments. Dylan Glickman and Rishabh Sharda won B doubles at the season-opening Middlebury Invitational. Corey Marley won the D singles title and teamed with freshman Vuk Vuksanovic to win the B doubles crown at the Wallach Invitational hosted by Bates College. Then Gorelik and Marley finished the fall by both winning singles titles at the MIT Classic.
Under Coach Gregor's lead, the team's preparation and excitement for the spring season was at a special level.
"This is as motivated a team as I've ever had here at Tufts," Coach Gregor said in March. "Everyone is bought in and putting in the tough work to reach their goals."
The Jumbos opened the spring with a 5-4 victory against a Middlebury College team that would also advance to the Final Four later in the year. Tufts' only regular-season came next to Williams College 6-3. However, the team responded with a 5-0 record duing a spring break swing through California which included victories against four top-25 teams. That was the start of winning streak that would last throughout the remainder of the regular-season. It also helped the Jumbos vault to the #3 national ranking in the ITA poll. Their regular-season was punctuated by an 8-1 victory against Amherst College in the finale which put their winning streak at 14 matches.
Earning a best-ever #2 seed for the NESCAC Tournament, Tufts defeated Colby in the quarterfinals and then earned revenge against Williams in the semfinals with a 5-3 victory. Playing in their second-straight conference championship final, the Jumbos fell to Middlebury 5-3 ending their winning streak at 16. Undeterred, they earned the program's first NCAA Tournament berth since 2004 and went down to Baltimore and won an NCAA Regional hosted by Johns Hopkins University. Tufts defeated Goucher 5-0 and North Carolina Wesleyan 5-3 to receive the program's first-ever berth into the NCAA "Elite 8". Playing at the U.S. Tennis Association national campus in Orlando, the Jumbos defeated fifth-ranked Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 5-3 in the national quarterfinals to move into the semis. Facing #1 in the nation University of Chicago, the Jumbos battled until one match remained on the courts before falling 5-4 to the eventual national champions.
Three Tufts players went on to compete at the NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships, with Gorelik advancing to the national semifinals before losing. The Jumbos finished the year ranked #4 nationally as a team and second in the Northeast Region. In the final singles national rankings, Gorelik was third and Sharda was 17th. For doubles, Josh Belandres and Sharda earned the #15 national ranking. Four Jumbos - Belandres, Gorelik, Sharda and Vuksanovic - earned All-Conference recognition. Nine team members achieved NESCAC All-Academic honors for carrying grade point averages of 3.50 or better.
"It has been a pleasure to watch Karl build our men's tennis program into a national contender over the last eight years and the entire Tufts Athletics family is very excited to learn he was named the 2022 ITA National Coach of the Year," Tufts Director of Athletics John Morris said. "His leadership has created a culture in which our Jumbo men's tennis student-athletes can thrive both athletically and academically."
This is the second straight year that a Tufts tennis coach has received the ITA's national award. Women's coach Kate Bayard was the 2021 national honoree.