DURHAM, N.C. – Duke women’s tennis senior Samantha Harris was named the 2018 ITA National Most Improved Senior by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) on Wednesday.
“It’s great that it comes from outside coaches, to recognize the work Sam has put in,” said head coach Jamie Ashworth. “We’ve talked about it in our program all year, but it’s a great thing among from my peers to recognize what she has done on and off the court. To go from never making the individual tournament to an All-American in both the singles and the doubles is something she should be proud of. To come into our program like ours and improve is great. She was a good program when she came into Duke and leaves a smarter, better player now.”
Harris, who was also named the ITA Carolina Region Most Improved Senior as well as the ITA Carolina Region Senior Player of the Year, is the first Blue Devil to win the award. Harris spent the entire dual match season playing on court one, providing a 15-6 record there. The senior from Melbourne, Australia reached 30-wins for the first time in her career, racking up a 30-12 ledger, including 15-9 against ranked opponents. She finished the team season with a win over Stanford’s Michaela Gordon in the NCAA Semifinals.
Harris has also had success partnering with Kelly Chen on the doubles court this year. After reaching the semifinals of both the ITA/Riviera All-American Championships and the ITA Fall National Championships to close out the fall season, the duo became the first Blue Devils to be ranked No. 1 by the ITA since Mallory Cecil topped the singles poll in 2009. The pair have a 25-9 record this season, a 9-3 record against ranked pairs and a 15-7 dual match record.
In her final season at Duke, Harris helped the Blue Devils earn their second-straight ACC regular-season title and reach the ACC tournament final for the first time since 2014. She also helped lead Duke back to the NCAA Tournament Semifinals for the first time since 2012. During her final fall campaign, she was the runner-up at both the ITA Carolina Regional Championships and at the ITA Fall National Championships.
After not qualifying for the NCAA singles or doubles tournament during her first three seasons, not only did Harris reach both this year, but she was a top-eight seed in each draw, giving her All-American status in each.
"She’s been a great leader on and off the court and really set the tone for teams to come with her work ethic and passion,” Ashworth added. “She not always physically 100%, but is always willing to give 100% of herself, whether it’s in practice or in matches. As a coach that’s what you want, someone that will truly bleed for your program. Hopefully that will set the tone for teams to come and show what it takes to compete at a high level.”
It is the fourth ITA honor of Harris’ career. She was also named the 2015 ITA Carolina Region Rookie of the Year to go along with her three honors this season.