BRENTWOOD, Tenn. – The Ohio Valley Conference coaches voted University of Tennessee at Martin junior Asel Jumamukhambetova as the league’s fourth-best returning tennis player in 2018, as the conference released its preseason rankings this morning.
In addition to announcing their annual preseason top-10 returners, the OVC unveiled its preseason team rankings as well. The Skyhawks garnered 49 points and were picked to finish fifth out of 10 teams, behind Eastern Kentucky (77), Austin Peay (59), Eastern Illinois (55) and Murray State (50).
“We have the youngest and most inexperienced team that we have had in many years,” UT Martin head coach Dennis Taylor said. “For the other coaches to believe that this young team can finish in the top half of the conference says a lot about the raw talent our girls have. Our inexperience and youth will definitely put us as underdogs this spring but I believe this group of girls will love being the underdogs.”
Jumamukhambetova, who dialed up All-OVC second team status in 2016-17, leads the Skyhawks this season in both singles victories (seven) and doubles wins (six). The Atyrau, Kazakhstan native boasts a career record of 47-26 in singles, including a 14-3 mark when pitted against conference foes. She has also accounted for a 34-28 career doubles record with a 5-4 slate when in league play.
Last season, Jumamukhambetova went 22-6 in singles (8-1 OVC) to go along with a 15-11 record in doubles. She played everywhere from No. 2 to No. 5 in singles, seeing the most time at No. 4 – where she was a perfect 9-0. She emerged victorious in 10 straight singles matches from March 4 through April 4, the final six of which came against OVC rivals. In addition, she earned her first career adidas OVC Player of the Week accolade on March 8.
“I am especially glad to see that the preseason poll has Asel among the top 10,” Taylor said. “In my opinion, she is the most improved player in our conference. In my 30 years as head coach, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone improve as much as she has in one semester.”
UT Martin continues to be a model of excellence in the Ohio Valley Conference tennis ranks, as the Skyhawks have made 24 appearances in the league’s postseason tournament in the last 25 years. UT Martin has advanced to the league finals nine times since joining the OVC in 1993 – the second-most of any school in that span.