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Three Wildcats' named ITA All-Americans

BY SCOTT HUNT - shunt@chronicle-tribune.com

The Indiana Wesleyan men’s and women’s tennis programs recently received distinguished awards when the Intercollegiate Tennis Association released its 2019 NAIA All-American teams.

Lizzie Bauss finished with the second-highest ranking for a singles player in the IWU women’s program history to earn ITA selection while on the men’s side, Eli Steiner and Grant Esposito earned All-American distinction as the top-ranking doubles team ever at IWU.

Bauss, a rising senior from Kalamazoo, Michigan, finished her season as the 15th-ranked singles player in the country and trailing only Julie Beekman (Wilmert), who finished her 2001 season at IWU ranked 10th in the nation. 

“This is a wonderful honor for Lizzie as she continues to get better on the tennis court,” said head coach Eddy Shigley in an IWU press release. “She lives on the tennis court during the summer and it is so good to see her hard work pay off with these kinds of awards.

“Lizzie desires to be involved in tennis full time as she graduates from IWU next spring through player development and as a College Coach,” he added. “She wants to make a difference in the tennis world by providing quality coaching, living out her faith and helping others grow in their relationship with Christ.”

Steiner and Esposito finished their season ranked-ninth in the country in doubles, breaking a 34-year-old record held by Jay Smithley and Chamika DeSilva, who finished at No. 15 in the nation in 1985.

Esposito is a rising senior from Union City, Ohio who transfered to IWU from IUPUI prior to the 2018-19 school year and fit in instantly as a Wildcat.

“Grant ... had an immediate impact on our team and culture,” Shigley said. “Grant chose IWU because he wanted to continue to compete at a high level and grow in his faith. In fact, over the course of the year, Grant has felt called into some sort of Sports Ministry. I see it as my job to help him put this calling into action as he graduates from IWU next spring.”

Steiner not only earned ITA honors for his doubles play, the junior from Leo High School outside of Fort Wayne finished the season ranked No. 16 in the country in, the highest mark for a men’s tennis player since Jakob Peterson finished fifth in 2004.

“This is an amazing accomplishment for Eli,” Shigley said. “He had a terrific season and he was getting better every week as the season progressed. Eli has an incredible will to compete and a heart for the Lord. He wants to be a youth pastor and his love for the Lord and others is amazing. It is so great to have this sort of leadership from our best player.”

Indiana Wesleyan was the only Crossroads League team who took home ITA honors in either men’s or women’s tennis during the 2018-19 season. The top 20 singles players along with the top 10 doubles teams in NAIA tennis were honored as All-Americans.

Indiana Wesleyan’s begins its fall season on the courts Aug. 27 when they host Grant County and league-rival Taylor.