Gustavus Adolphus senior women’s tennis player Tara Houlihan (Sioux Falls, S.D.) has been named the 2006 Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Senior Player of the Year for the NCAA Division III Central Region. Houlihan is the second consecutive Gustie to receive the honor. Kara Smiley captured the award last season.
Houlihan and doubles partner Lyndsey Palen (Rochester, Minn.) picked up their second consecutive NCAA doubles crown May 22 with a three-set victory over DePauw’s Liz Bondi and Amrita Padda in the doubles championship match at the NCAA Division III Women’s Tennis Championships in Santa Cruz, California. The victory avenged an 8-6 loss to Bondi and Padda during the Midwest Invitational Dual Tournament earlier this season. It had been the only blemish on the Gustie tandem’s 26-1 record.
Houlihan, a three-time All-American, was also selected to the singles draw at the NCAA Championships for the third consecutive year. Houlihan recorded a three-set win in the first round, and had pushed her second round match to a third and decisive set, but severe cramping forced her to retire from the match.
A four-time All-Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) selection, Houlihan was a member of four MIAC championship teams as well as four teams that reached the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Division III Women’s Tennis Championships. Houlihan accumulated a 70-28 record in singles (28-1 in MIAC play) and an 81-16 record in doubles play (27-0 in MIAC play) in four years at Gustavus.
This is the second ITA award for Houlihan, who was also tabbed as the ITA Player to Watch for the NCAA Division III Central Region in 2004. The ITA Player to Watch Award goes to a player who has an outstanding season and is expected to perform at a high level the rest of his or her career. This award’s criteria also includes a player’s sportsmanship and character.