May 4, 2010
DEKALB, Ill. - Freshman Northern Illinois men's tennis player Maksym Bartiuk capped off his stellar debut campaign by being named the Mid-American Conference Newcomer of the Year, and a First-Team All-MAC performer, the conference office announced Tuesday. Additionally, senior Javier Bernabe earned the Jack Vredevelt Sportsmanship Award, as voted on by the league's head coaches.
Bartiuk is the fourth player in NIU history to be tabbed the MAC Newcomer of the Year, and represents the Huskies' third-straight season with a player named to the first-team. Bernabe became the fourth player in NIU history to earn the Sportsmanship Award, and the first since 2005.
"Our program made some huge strides this season, and I think these awards certainly display that," said NIU head coach Patrick Fisher. "Javier and Maksym were probably our two biggest leaders, and it's fitting that they both be recognized for their performance on and off the court."
Bartiuk, who enrolled at NIU in January, was the only freshman in the league to start every match at the No. 1 singles position - he compiled a 13-6 record, including a 3-1 mark in MAC play. He rolled off nine-straight singles wins between Feb. 12 and April 16, and started out 3-0 in MAC matches, with two of those victories coming in straight-sets. Bartiuk's lone loss during league play was versus Ball State's Eduardo Pavia, the MAC Player of the Year.
"Maksym had an outstanding year," Fisher said. "He played No. 1 singles from start-to-finish, and that's significant, because it was his first experience playing college tennis. I thought the turning point for Maksym was during the Iowa match (Feb. 7), when he forced match point, but eventually came up short. He realized during that match that we could play with anyone on this level, and really never really looked back. Maksym is only going to get better, and will be a cornerstone of this program for the next three years."
Playing alongside four different partners in all three doubles flights, Bartiuk, a native of Ukraine, recorded an 11-11 mark in doubles play. He and classmate Maximilian Phillips
represented the Huskies' No. 2 tandem down the stretch, and helped NIU clinch the doubles point against eventual regular season champion Buffalo at the Huskie Tennis Courts on April 11.
Bernabe may be one of the best stories in college tennis. The 2009 second-team all-conference and Academic All-MAC selection has played for three head coaches in four years, and served as a team captain this season.
Bernabe was one-of just two players on the NIU roster during the fall campaign, as he helped push through a challenging offseason for Fisher, who took over a roster with just two active players. Bernabe is set to graduate with a 3.337 grade-point-average in NIU's business school, and plans on attending grad school in the fall.
"I believe Javier has been one of the greatest leaders this program has ever had," said Fisher. "He has been a consummate sportsman on the court, and I think that is echoed with him being voted as the recipient of this award from the other coaches in our league.
"One of Javier's greatest strengths is how he remains humble through any situation - he'll just go out on the court and fight, and do it with class. He is going to graduate with a great GPA in one of the toughest majors (Finance) at NIU, and has been a great ambassador for both this university and Huskie tennis."