April 28, 2009
DEKALB, Ill. - Three days after the completion of the 2009 Mid-American Conference Men's Tennis Championships, the league's specialty awards and All-MAC teams were announced Tuesday. NIU freshman Pawel Poziomski highlighted the Huskies' representation, by being named the MAC Newcomer of the Year.
Poziomski becomes the third NIU player in program history to be tabbed the MAC Newcomer of the Year. Former letterwinner Brian Livingston collected the honor in 2006, while Eric Martinez was named Newcomer of the Year in 2002. NIU players have represented one of the league's specialty awards (Player of the Year, Newcomer of the Year or the Vredevelt Sportsmanship Award) in three-of the last four seasons.
Poziomski was also named second-team All-MAC. Joining him on the All-MAC squads were freshman Jurica Grubisic (first-team) and junior Javier Bernabe (second-team). NIU has had at least one player named to the MAC's first-team in each of the past three seasons.
"I'm really happy for the guys that were recognized, and particularly for Pawel (Poziomski)," said NIU head coach Pawel Gajdzik. "He and Jurica (Grubisic) both arrived at NIU under some unique circumstances, having to adjust to a new team, and in Pawel's case, a new culture, in a very short time.
"Pawel is a tough kid; he comes to practice every day looking to improve his game, and do what he can to help this team win. Jurica may have the most talent of any player in this league, and I expect him to make an even bigger step next season. He had a great start to the season, and finished strong, as well."
"Javier (Bernabe) was our diamond in the rough this season," Gajdzik added. "His commitment both in the classroom and on the court is unparalleled. We moved Javier all around the lineup this season, and he embraced every role we threw at him. He has become one of the leaders of this team, and I'm excited about the opportunity to coach him for one more year."
Poziomski enrolled at NIU in January, and immediately stepped in as the Huskies' primary No. 2 singles player. He finished the season with an 8-6 singles mark, including a 3-2 record in MAC play. At the tail end of the season, he was moved to the top singles position, and played in that capacity during the MAC Championships.
Poziomski helped NIU secure its first regular-season dual-match win over Ball State since 1974, by topping the Cardinals' No. 1 singles player, Jose Perdomo, in a hard-fought three-set (4-6, 7-6, 6-1) contest on April 18. He enjoyed one four-match winning streak from Feb. 7 to Feb. 21, along with a three-match flurry heading into the MAC Championship semifinals against second-seeded Toledo. Poziomski was also named the MAC Player of the Week on April 19.
Grubisic posted a 10-7 singles record in his freshman campaign, playing 15 of those matches at the No. 1 singles position. He started his career off hot, posting a 7-5, 6-3 win over Michigan State's Alex Forger, a top-30 regionally ranked player at the time. After dropping a shortened match against Wisconsin's Marek Michalicka (No. 36), Grubisic rolled off five-consecutive wins in non-conference play.
After playing through various injuries, Grubisic fought back to win three-of his final three matches, after being shifted to the No. 2 singles flight. He ended the season by recording a straight-set win over Toledo's Nutthavit Likitkumchorn in the MAC Championship semifinals. He was named the MAC Player of the Week on Jan. 22.
Bernabe enjoyed a breakout season in the first year under the tutelage of Gajdzik. He tallied a team-high 11 singles wins (11-7), spending time between the second-through-sixth singles flights. He went 6-4 in his final 10 singles matches, including four-straight before dropping a straight-set decision in the MAC semifinals.
Bernabe also enjoyed a four-match winning streak between Feb. 7 and Feb. 21, and during MAC play, posted wins over Buffalo, Ball State and Chicago State. Bernabe was named to the Academic All-MAC team last season.