Miller, Sipkova win NAIA tennis honors

Kris Miller and Lucie Sipkova
Kris Miller and Lucie Sipkova

MOBILE, Ala. - Oklahoma Christian women's tennis player Lucie Sipkova and men's coach Kris Miller have received national honors on the eve of the NAIA Championship.

Sipkova, a sophomore from Pardubice, Czech Republic, was named as the Intercollegiate Tennis Association's NAIA Player to Watch, an award given to a standout sophomore player, while Miller was named as the ITA's NAIA Men's Coach of the Year for the fifth time.

Sipkova beat out three other regional winners to win her honor on Monday night. Entering this week's national tournament, she is 13-4 in singles play at the No. 1 and No. 2 positions for the Lady Eagles, including a 5-0 mark at No. 1.

Sipkova is 11th in the ITA's NAIA singles rankings and third in the doubles rankings with teammate Hermon Brhane. The OC duo is 14-3 this season after winning the NAIA bracket title in the U.S. Tennis Association/ITA Small College Championships last fall in Mobile.

"She really deserves it," Miller said. "She's had a great year for us. She's one of the top 15 players in the country. She is quite impressive on and off the court and she's a great student, too."

Miller has guided OC to a 16-3 record and a No. 3 national ranking entering the NAIA Championship. He first won the national men's coaching award in 1996 and took the honor again in 1998, 2003 (when OC won the NAIA championship) and 2010. He also won NAIA Women's Coach of the Year honors in 1998 and 2000. This year, he also was named as the Central Region Women's Coach of the Year.

Miller beat out three other regional men's coaching winners - Terry Darling of Spring Arbor (Mich.), Alan Green of Xavier (La.) and Neil Castro of Fresno Pacific (Calif.) - to take the national honor.

"It's a very nice award," Miller said. "Coaches don't win awards like this unless they have great kids with great character. We've got a great group of young men on our team who played a big role in this, and we wouldn't be where we are without my assistant coach, Artie (Artsem Burmistrov)."

Miller is the second OC coach to receive national coaching honors during the 2011-12 school year. Mark Thompson was named the NAIA Men's Cross Country Coach of the Year last November after guiding the Eagles to a national title in that sport.