(TEMPE, Ariz.) – The Carnegie Mellon University men's and women's tennis programs received regional honors from the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA). The women's team earned the ITA Community Service Award for the Atlantic South while the men's program received recognition with the ITA Community Service Honorable Mention Award. Additionally, senior Vinaya Rao (Vernon Hills, Ill. / Adlai E. Stevenson) was named the ITA Senior Player of the Year for the Atlantic South.
The men's program was a player in the Rise Against Hunger event on Carnegie Mellon's campus in the fall where the players helped pack meals. The Tartans men's team also hosted five tennis clinics in the fall for faculty, staff, and students who wanted to learn more about the game.
"Unfortunately we did not get the chance to do our usual springtime community service activities, but we are still proud of what we did in the fall," said head coach Mike Belmonte. "The meal-packing event was a lot of fun, and it was easy to see the impact we were having with each meal we assembled and packed. We knew that hungry people were going to be fed as a result of our efforts. The tennis clinics were gratifying because they served as a nice catalyst for tennis players from different parts of the community to gather and get to know each other. They served as unifying, fun social gatherings that boosted the general enthusiasm towards our sport and our varsity team more specifically."
The women's program also participated in Rise Against Hunger as a unit with individuals volunteering their time to help train service dogs, work in an elementary school tutoring program, while also making Valentine's Day cards for children in hospitals. Some of the players also volunteered to help the men's program with the tennis clinics.
Rao finished her senior year ranked fourth in the Atlantic South and 18th in the nation. As a doubles player, Rao finished in the top 10 in the region the past three years, and ranked as high as 22nd in the nation and won the ITA Southeast Regional Doubles Championship her sophomore season. She put together a 13-8 singles mark this year while primarily playing second singles and a 12-8 doubles record with the bulk of her matches coming at the second position. In the fall, Rao finished as a semifinalist in the ITA Southeast Regional Singles bracket.
"Vinaya played an instrumental role in our team improving each year during her four years at Carnegie Mellon," said head coach Andrew Girard. "The mantra of "leave a place better than you found it" certainly applies here. Vinaya grew tremendously as a teammate and leader within our program."
Rao finishes her career as one of a select few who are in the top 10 in Carnegie Mellon's women's tennis history for wins in both singles and doubles with almost all of those wins in higher positions in the lineup. Rao is tied for eighth all-time in combined wins with 133 and is one of 11 Tartans to win at least 50 singles matches and 50 doubles matches.