OMAHA, Neb. — Creighton women’s tennis head coach Tom Lilly was named BIG EAST Coach of the Year, while Malvika Shukla was named to the First Team All-BIG EAST and Valerie Negin earned Second Team All-BIG EAST honors on Wednesday, May 3. The selections were made by the league’s head coaches, who were not permitted to vote for their own players.
Lilly earns his first Coach of the Year honor at the league level after guiding the Bluejays to a runner-up finish at the recently-completed BIG EAST Championships. He led the Bluejays to a 17-8 record this season, which featured the programs first ever trip to the finals of the BIG EAST Tournament. Earlier this season, Lilly became just the fourth coach in Creighton history to collect 500 career victories as the Bluejays downed Air Force, 4-3.
This is Lilly’s 26th year leading the Creighton’s women’s tennis program, while he also heads the Bluejay men’s tennis team.
A native of Mumbia, India, Shukla paced the Bluejays with 16 singles victories, as the three-time BIG EAST Singles Player of the Week honoree earned 14 victories at the top singles position, including 13 straight to open the season. Her 16 singles victories were the most by a Bluejay in a single season since Michaela Henne collected 18 single wins in the 2017 season.
Shukla also teamed up to earn two BIG EAST Doubles Team of the Week honors and nine victories with graduate transfer Leanne Kendall at the No. 1 doubles position. Combined with her single wins, Shukla combined for 25 victories, becoming one of five Bluejays to earn 20 or more wins this season.
Negin, claiming all-conference recognition for the second straight season, became just the sixth Bluejay in program history to earn multiple all-conference honors, joining Katie Chiu (2006, 2007), Jennie Hartjes (2013, 2015), Ashley Ishimura (2018, 2019), Kate Krueger (2021, 2022) and Tess Reddin (2009, 2010).
Playing primarily at the No. 3 singles position, Negin earned 11 singles wins during the 2023 season. This season, Negin posted a 6-1 record against BIG EAST competition, including a huge 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 win over DePaul’s Hannah Smith to help the Bluejays secure their first trip to the BIG EAST Championship match.
A native of Centennial, Colo., Negin also teamed up with freshman Ana Paula Martinez to collect 15 wins at the No. 2 doubles slot this season. The duo has combined for a 4-1 record in BIG EAST play, including a 6-4 victory over DePaul’s Greta Carbone and Smith in the semifinals of the BIG EAST Championships.
Xavier junior Imani Graham has been name BIG EAST Player of the Year, while Xavier’s Abbyy Nugent was named BIG EAST Freshman of the Year. In addition to Graham and Shukla, the All-BIG EAST First Team includes: Natalie Boesing of Butler, Maria Constantinou of Connecticut, Yuliya Kizelbasheva of DePaul and Emilija KoJcic of Marquette.
2023 BIG EAST Women’s Tennis Awards
Player of the Year: Imani Graham, Xavier
Freshman of the Year: Abby Nugent, Xavier
Coaching Staff of the Year: Creighton (Tom and Jean Lilly)
All-BIG EAST First Team
Natalie Boesing, Butler
Maria Constantinou, Connecticut^
Imani Graham, Xavier ^
Yuliya Kizelbasheva, DePaul
Emilija KoJcic, Marquette
Mavika Shukla, Creighton
All-BIG EAST Second Team
Mouna Bozgarru, St. John’s
Lalita Devarakonda, St. John’s
Yesica de Lucas, St. John’s
Kat Lyman, Xavier
Valerie Negin, Creighton
Abby Nugent, Xavier