Looking forward to her seventh year with the Knights in 2013-14, Stephanie Nickitas continues to build a program through recruiting, and challenging her team by competing against quality opponents.
Coaching the Knights
Collecting its most victories in a season since 1999-00, UCF produced 14 wins in 2012-13 and was nationally ranked during the season as well. Along the way, Nickitas mentored several Knights who entered the UCF record book.
In singles, Genevieve Lorbergs broke out in dual-match play, eventually landing a spot on the All-Conference USA First Team. She notched 22 singles victories, including five over ranked opponents, to place in a tie for ninth on the single-season chart.
Caroline Eberhart, meanwhile, delivered 25 singles victories as a freshman, good for fourth place on the Knights' single-season wins list. And the doubles combination of Lorbergs and Josephine Haraldson notched 20 victories, which were just one shy of matching the school record.
Nickitas formed one of the toughest schedules in the country in 2011-12 as UCF battled 10 nationally-ranked opponents highlighted by four schools which were ranked in the top 10. During the year the Knights collected victories over East Carolina, Michigan State, Harvard, West Virginia and SMU.
Senior Taylor Dubins, who joined the Knights as a walk-on as a sophomore, ultimately led the Knights in 2012 with 18 singles victories. That included ending the year on a seven-match winning streak. She also teamed up with Andrea Yacaman for 15 doubles wins. Dubins would later be voted onto the C-USA All-Academic Team.
Quickly working up towards the top of C-USA, UCF put together a 2010-11 campaign in which it earned a No. 5 seed for the C-USA Championship. That tied for the Knights' highest seed since joining the league in 2005-06, proving that the program maintains an upward path through the college tennis ranks.
In 2010-11, the Black and Gold went 12-8 with a 3-1 mark in C-USA, and secured victories over UAB, Miami (Ohio), Marquette, East Carolina, Memphis and FAU. Meanwhile Nickitas helped Haraldson toward 19 singles wins in just her first year in the college game.
After the 2011 dual-match season, UCF earned ITA All-Academic status for having a team GPA higher than 3.20. And Jenna Doerfler claimed the ITA Summer Circuit singles crown at Florida State, and Courtney Griffith won the ITA Summer Circuit backdraw at Georgia.
In 2008-09, the Knights faced seven ranked foes and welcomed three top-15 teams to the UCF Tennis Complex. The following year in 2009-10, the Black and Gold battled highly-ranked programs such as Alabama, Illinois, Florida, Florida State and SMU in the fall and the spring. It also faced several other schools from across the country like New Mexico, Michigan State and Harvard.
During that 2009-10 campaign, UCF finished with an impressive 13-7 record.
Highlighted by victories over Michigan State, Memphis and New Mexico, the Knights shot off to a 9-2 start, which was their best opening to a season since 1998-99.
Junior Jenny Frisell was consistently ranked among the top singles players in the country, including a No. 83 ranking by the ITA. Dubins won a singles tournament in the fall at UNF, while freshman Allison Hodges claimed the doubles title at the Southern Adult Indoor Tennis Open in December, which gave her a wild card spot into the qualifying round of the WTA professional tournament in Memphis.
Coaching in her second year at UCF, Nickitas led the Knights to a 12-10 mark facing a difficult schedule in 2008-09. The doubles pair of Frisell and Elvira Serrot was slotted together by Nickitas on Feb. 13 against Georgia Southern and quickly rose in the national ranks all the way to No. 27 after defeating the No. 11 and No. 33 ranked teams from Duke and NC State, respectively.
Under the guidance of Nickitas, Katie Orletsky, a transfer from Arizona, anchored the No. 6 slot for the Knights posting a 12-5 record and capturing the Conference USA Newcomer of the Year award. The honor was the first specialty award handed to a UCF women's tennis player since joining C-USA in 2005.
In her first year at the helm of the Knights, Nickitas guided the squad to a 12-9 record and a 57.8 singles winning percentage in 2007-08. But more impressively, UCF dominated on the doubles courts by going 60-30 for a 66.7 clip.
Focusing on the classroom, a whopping seven student-athletes on the 2009-10 roster and the 2012-13 roster were selected to the C-USA Commissioner's Honor Roll. That included Dubins (2009-10) and Sofia Baptista (2012-13) earning the C-USA Commissioner's Academic Medal for having a GPA of at least 3.75.
Four Knights in 2008-09 received spots on the C-USA Commissioner's Academic Honor Roll as well. Among those Knights were Frisell and Elvira Serrot, who were voted onto the All-C-USA Second Team as a doubles tandem. Frisell as a sophomore was additionally recognized by the coaches as a singles player on the All-C-USA Second Team.
Combined with Nickitas' first season, the Knights have had 25 selections to the prestigious honor roll. Four singles players and a doubles team were chosen for all-connference awards under the watch of Nickitas as well.
And the leader of the Knights also has received plenty of other praise as well. Nickitas was elected to a two-year appointment from 2011-13 on the USTA Collegiate Varsity Committee, which promotes the growth of American Collegiate Varsity Tennis and its role as an important pathway for tennis development.
Nickitas was in her second term from 2011-13 as a regional representative on the ITA Women's Division I Operating Committee as well. She is also a member of the Division I Southeast Regional Committee.
Since she first arrived in Orlando in the summer of 2007, Nickitas' recruiting classes have been worthy of attention as well. Her incoming class for 2009-10 was ranked as the fourth-best mid-major class in the nation by TennisRecruiting.net. That was the highest of any C-USA program. A year earlier, her first UCF class climbed all the way to sixth in the rankings.
Nickitas was a standout player at Florida from 1996-99, earning All-America recognition six times for the Gators. She went on to be selected for The 1999 NCAA Top VIII Award, which honors the most-deserving eight student-athletes from across the country in all sports for their athletic, academic and leadership achievements.
A member of the Gators' 1996 and 1998 NCAA national championship squads, Nickitas won 128 singles matches during her career and earned All-Southeastern Conference First Team honors all four years. She won four collegiate Grand Slam titles as well, while that 1996 squad was ranked seventh of the Top 25 Gator Teams released in 2009.
Nickitas also was the 1996 and 1997 NCAA Doubles champion with Dawn Buth, becoming the first duo in Division I history to claim back-to-back titles. She currently ranks first in single-season doubles winning percentage (41-1, 97.6 percent), and second all-time at UF with a career mark of 89.5 percent (128-15).
Nickitas picked up GTE Academic All-America honors in 1998 and was awarded with the NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship following her senior campaign.
On Sept. 7, 2011, Nickitas was selected to join the UF Athletic Hall of Fame Class of 2012. The induction ceremony took place April 6, 2012.
Assistant Coaching Career
Prior coming to Orlando, Nickitas spent two seasons as an assistant coach at Duke University and three at Harvard University.
With Nickitas on the staff, Duke advanced to the second round of the NCAA Championships in 2007. The Blue Devils finished the season ranked ninth nationally and went 20-8 overall and 9-1 against Atlantic Coast Conference opponents.
Before working at Duke, Nickitas spent three years as an assistant at Harvard. In her three campaigns with the Crimson, Nickitas helped the Crimson claim three Ivy League championships. Harvard made two appearances in the NCAA Sweet Sixteen and went undefeated in Ivy League play during Nickitas' tenure.
Following the 2005 season, Nickitas was named the Intercollegiate Tennis Association East Region Assistant Coach of the Year.
The Personal File
Nickitas is a native of Tampa and received her bachelor's degree in business administration from Florida in 1999. She then earned her master's degree in sports and fitness with a specialization in coaching and sport leadership from UCF in December 2009. Nickitas also earned her CrossFit Level One Certification in November 2010.