Mya Smith-Dennis – April Male Student-Athlete of the Month – Sophomore, Tennis
After claiming its unparalleled 24th consecutive MIAC regular season title last Saturday, the Gustavus men’s tennis team is prepared to make another run through the conference playoffs this weekend with hopes of reaching the NCAA Championships. The 20th-ranked Gusties have benefitted from strong play throughout their lineup and that is undoubtedly true at the No. 1 doubles and No. 2 singles positions. Sophomore Mya Smith-Dennis (Savage, Minn.) had an outstanding final month of the regular season and for his efforts, the Office of Sports Information has named Smith-Dennis Male Student-Athlete of the Month for April, presented by Thrivent Financial.
“He’s just a fantastic young man, first and foremost,” Head Coach Tommy Valentini said. “He works extremely hard, he’s very coachable and is really excited to learn and improve. He was a Division I player last year and coming into our program we knew that the ability level was there, but how he has responded to our philosophy and our approach has been fantastic.”
The men’s tennis team started the month with a spring trip to California and competed against three nationally ranked squads. Smith-Dennis won his first singles match of the trip against No. 25 Whittier, but fell in the final two matches against No. 11 Pomona-Pitzer and No. 6 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. There were no setbacks during doubles play with teammate Amrik Donkena, though, as the two Gusties cruised to three-straight victories against the ranked teams, including an intense 9-7-tiebreaker win over the No. 5 doubles team out of the West Region – Claremont’s Warren Wood and Nikolas Marino.
Since the trip out west, Smith-Dennis has not lost a singles match and is on a six-match win streak. He heads into the MIAC tournament with a 7-2 record during the month. The streak includes straight-set victories over conference opponents Avery Rux of Carleton (6-2, 6-4), Dan Cooper of St. Thomas (6-3, 6-3) and Stephen Nolan of St. Olaf (6-2, 6-2). On the season, the Savage, Minn. native is ranked No. 10 in the Central Region in singles with a 21-6 overall mark.
In doubles action, Smith-Dennis lost just once in April – an 8-4 setback at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater on the 14th – and went 8-1 during the month. The Burnsville product has since won five consecutive doubles matches with Donkena and the pair is ranked No. 1 in the Central Region with a combined 25-3 record on the season.
Smith-Dennis and the rest of the team will look to continue the Gustavus dynasty this weekend at the MIAC Playoffs. The Gusties, who are once again hosting the event, enter the tournament as the No. 1 seed after posting a 19-7 overall record and their 27th-straight perfect season in the MIAC at 9-0. The Three Crowns will face the lowest remaining seed out of Friday’s quarterfinals on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. at the Brown Outdoor Courts.
“What we expect out of Mya this weekend is what we expect out of all our guys; being prepared to play with their best effort and compete with a positive attitude,” Valentini acknowledged. “If they all compete as hard as they can and enjoy the moment, the rest should take care of itself.”