CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - The Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference announced that junior Tai Lucero (Odessa, Texas/Permian) has been named the IIAC Player of the Year for the season, while head coach Eric Rodgers has been selected as the IIAC Coach of the Year.
Lucero captured the Flight A singles title and teamed with 2011 IIAC Women's Tennis MVP Michelle Schupbach (Cedar Falls, Iowa/Columbus) for the Flight A doubles title at the recent Iowa Conference Individual Championships. Entering the singles tournament as the No. 2 seed, she dropped only one game heading into the championship match, a 6-1, 6-2 win over defending champion Schupbach. Lucero, who also won the title and was named MVP in 2010, is one of four Coe players to capture the league's top singles title (Molly Fiala, 2005 & 2007; Hannah Jensen, 2008; Schupbach, 2011).
Lucero and Schupbach entered as the top-seeded tandem in a Flight A doubles competition that saw three Coe doubles tandems reach the semifinals. The two-time defending champion tandem defeated Luther's Elise Allen and Maggie Helms, 8-4, in the semifinals before topping teammates Jordan Ferree (Pekin, Ill./Pekin) and Laura Birky (Cedar Rapids, Iowa/Xavier), 8-6, in the championship match. In all, Lucero has advanced to five Flight A finals in six opportunities, winning two singles crowns (2010, 2012) and three doubles crowns (2010-11-12).
Lucero is one of three Coe student-athletes to be named Iowa Conference Player of the Year in women's tennis, joining four-time winner Molly Fiala (2005-06-07-08) and Schupbach (2011).
She posted a 16-1 singles record overall during the fall season with the only blemish coming to eventual champion Laura Krull of Grinnell in the semifinal round at the USTA/ITA Midwest Region Championship. Lucero also posted a 16-1 mark in doubles (14-1 with Schupbach, 2-0 with Sara Ohlman (Washington, Ill./Washington)), competing at the No. 1 position. The only defeat came at the hands of eventual champions Bridget Doyle and Mikayla Becich of Carleton in the Midwest Regional championship.
Rodgers guided Coe to an 8-1 mark during the fall season, including a perfect 7-0 mark in IIAC play to secure the school's fifth Iowa Conference title in women's tennis. The Kohawks will host the Iowa Conference NCAA AQ Tournament next April. This marks the fifth time Rodgers had been named IIAC Women's Tennis Coach of the Year (2006-2008, 2011). He is also a three-time IIAC Men's Tennis Coach of the Year (2003-2005).
The Iowa Conference also announced its 2012 All-Conference Women's Tennis Team. Six Coe players were named overall with Lucero, Schupbach and Ferree being named in both singles and doubles, Ohlman and Amy Sebastian (Mundelein, Ill./Vernon Hills) being named in singles and Birky receiving honors in doubles.
Coe finished the fall season 8-1 overall and 7-0 in the Iowa Conference, winning the regular season championship for the second-straight year. The Kohawks return to action Feb. 23 at Wheaton and will host the IIAC Automatic Qualifier Tournament April 27.