Minnesota junior Mariana Spilca has been recognized as the Central Region's recipient of the Arthur Ashe Leadership and Sportsmanship Award by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association.
Spilca, a Belen, N.M. native, returned to the lineup this season after missing all of 2008-09 and much of the previous two seasons with various injuries. She will have a sixth season of eligibility to return to the Gophers for the 2010-11 season.
The Arthur Ashe Leadership and Sportsmanship Award is presented to a player who has exhibited outstanding sportsmanship and leadership as well as scholastic, extracurricular and tennis achievements.
"Mariana has been and continues to be a tremendous leader in our program," Minnesota coach Tyler Thomson said. "As a result of missing three years of competition due to injuries, she has a degree of appreciation and perspective that very few student-athletes ever experience.
Spilca is one of 12 regional winners of the award and is now eligible for the national honor, which will be presented this summer. She won the team's Belmar Gunderson Award this season for consistently finding a way to persevere in the midst of adverse conditions and unfavorable odds.
"Mariana's leadership, most notably, resides in the passion and privilege with which she approaches every moment on the court with her teammates," Thomson added. "She is a very deserving nominee for this prestigious national award."
It marks the second time in four years the Minnesota's women's tennis program has received one of the ITA's prominent awards. Danielle Mousseau was the national winner of the Cissie Leary Sportsmanship Award in 2007.