Cowichan Valley tennis players earn university honours

Grace Haugen celebrates a point for the University of Montana. (Montana Athletics photo)Grace Haugen celebrates a point for the University of Montana. (Montana Athletics photo)
Grace Haugen (Montana Athletics photo)Grace Haugen (Montana Athletics photo)
Jessa Michiele (NSIC Media Relations photo)Jessa Michiele (NSIC Media Relations photo)

Two collegiate tennis players from the Cowichan Valley received recognition when their respective conference honours were announced earlier this month.

Grace Haugen, who plays for the NCAA Div. 1 University of Montana Grizzlies, was named to the All-Big Sky first team in singles and to the second team in doubles. Jessa Michieli, who plays for the Div. 2 Upper Iowa University Peacocks, was named to the All-Northern Sun Conference second team in doubles.

A true freshman from Cowichan Bay, Haugen became the first Montana freshman in 10 years to be named to the All-Big Sky first team. She missed five matches this season, but finished the spring with an 8-7 record overall, including 3-2 in conference play, taking Big Sky Player of the Week honours in January.

“She came in strong and had a really good fall in singles,” Montana women’s tennis head coach Steve Ascher said. “She beat some really good players regionally. Then, she made it to the ITA regional doubles quarterfinal with Maria, which was a huge, huge result and I think kind of sets the tone when you get some early results.

“Coming into spring, she had a good record and she played some great matches and got some good wins. She persevered and came back strong after fighting through some injuries on the year as well. So, I think in the matches she played she was really competitive and I think she got recognized for her hard work.”

Haugen and her doubles partner Lauren Dunlap posted a record of 7-2 overall and 3-2 in the conference, ending the season on a three-game win streak. Injuries prevented the duo from reaching their full potential, Ascher noted.

“I think it started off with them beating the No. 1 team at Washington State,” he said. “It was an impactful win, which was good. Things were clicking for them, but then they ended up with some injuries so I had to do a ton of shuffling throughout the middle of the year in the spring.

“Finally, things started getting healthier for not only Grace but for multiple people. We were kind of able to experiment a little bit more and at the end, they were cruising. I think their win against NAU was really good. They play well, their chemistry is good and they just work together really well. They’re a formidable team. It’d be cool to see what would happen when they did get healthy for a stretch.”

Michieli, a sophomore at UIU from Duncan, and her partner Charalampia Grammatikaki went 10-3 in doubles play this season, and combined for one of Upper Iowa’s most impressive doubles wins when they beat the No. 2 doubles team from then-No. 20 ranked Augustana University, which went on to win the conference title.

“Jessa had a great season, and I am happy that she got recognized for her doubles game,” UIU women’s tennis coach Léo Millet said. “She is another player that took a giant step forward this season. She has always been a very hard worker, but this year her mental toughness greatly improved, allowing her to find great success on the court. She especially impressed me towards the end of the season, when her focus and motivation were on a different level. This allowed her to finish the year very strongly and show the type of player she is.”