Blay, Rivas Named ITA All-American

| July 5, 2016

rivas and blay

VALDOSTA –  Following one of the best postseason runs since the program’s National Championship season in 2011, the Valdosta State men’s tennis team saw two of its top players, Leo Blay and Fernando Rivas earn All-America honors in June, as announced by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA).

Blay, who served as Coach John Hansen‘s No. 1 singles player throughout the entirety of the 2016 season, posted a 9-5 record on the year and took Thibaud Berland, the NCAA’s No. 1 singles player at the division II level, down to the wire in a narrow 7-6 (8-6), 3-6, 4-6 defeat at the 2016 Division II National Championship Tournament in Denver, Colo.

“We thought he had him beat,” said Coach Hansen with a chuckle about Blay’s match against Berland. “Leo probably played the match of his life that day against a Division I caliber player.”

Blay’s overall effort last season netted the sophomore the Gulf South Conference Player of the Year award and earned him a spot at No. 7 among the nation’s top-ranked singles players.

“Leo missed being an All-American in 2015 by just one spot,” added Hansen. “It was great that he was able to carry that on into this season. Despite an early injury, he was able to come back for us and play his best tennis of the year later in the season.”

Joining Blay on the list of All-Americans was Rivas, another sophomore from Madrid, Spain. The 2016 season represented Rivas’ first with Valdosta State, and he quickly made his presence known with a 10-5 singles record, primarily competing at the No. 3 position for Valdosta State. Rivas entered the season unranked among the top Division II singles players in the country, but his performance last season moved him to No. 19 on the national ITA individual singles rankings by the end of the year.

“Fernando was a transfer for us that took a little time adjusting,” stated Hansen. “He had a slow start at the beginning of the year but managed to turn it around, especially at the GSC Tournament where he won the deciding point to help us win the conference championship. That victory changed his level of confidence and carried him through the rest of the season.”

Blay and Rivas joined West Florida’s Alex Peyrot (No. 8) and Kenny Brasil (No. 20) as All-American honorees out of the Gulf South Conference, and both are expected to return for the No. 5 ranked Blazers as juniors in 2017.

“Absolutely,” answered Hansen when asked about whether he was looking forward to having the pair back for what could potentially be two more seasons. “At this point in their careers, both of them have a lot of good college tennis ahead of them.”

CLICK HERE for the final 2016 ITA National Poll.

CLICK HERE for the final 2016 ITA South Region Poll.

CLICK HERE for the final 2016 ITA Singles Rankings.

CLICK HERE for the final 2016 ITA Doubles Rankings.

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