It isn’t often that one gets to witness the best player in a given collegiate sport. Even more rare is to have that person reside on campus, but when it’s all said and done, Arkansas senior Aurelija Miseviciute, will have established herself as the best women’s tennis player to ever don the cardinal and white.
Heading into the 2009 spring season, Miseviciute’s eye-popping resume includes just about any honor you can think of. On a national scale, she won the 2007 and 2008 ITA National Indoor singles championships, was named an ITA All-American and a member of the ITA All-Star Team. The fantastic player is also a standout in the classroom as she was named the Southeastern Conference’s Scholar-Athlete of the Year last season. Those awards alone are more than any student-athlete could hope for but it doesn’t stop there for Miseviciute. She was a first-team All-SEC player, been seen in Sports Illustrated’s “Faces in the Crowd,” and also earned a spot on the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America At-Large Team.
Miseviciute’s 2007-08 season was one for the record books. She set Arkansas’ single-season win record by 12 with 56 victories last season, a total that exceeded that of any Arkansas tennis player in history, male or female. Heading into the spring 2009 season, Miseviciute has served up 104 career singles wins, four away from the school record.
“It’s such an honor to play at Arkansas and even more exciting when we win individually and as a team,” Miseviciute said. “I am looking forward to getting more wins for the Hogs as I close out my career.”
The native of Lithuania has enhanced Arkansas’ profile as a team, leading the Razorbacks to the program’s first ever taste of the Elite Eight at the NCAA Championships in 2008. However, it has not always been easy for Miseviciute, as she earned her spot as the No. 1-ranked women’s tennis player in the nation after jumping 118 spots during the fall from No. 119.
After leading the Razorback team to the final eight at the NCAA Championships in the spring of 2008, Miseviciute was able to take herself and doubles partner Ela Kaluder to new heights in individual competition. Playing both individual and doubles tournament concurrently, Miseviciute opened the singles competition by getting a scare from San Francisco’s Jenni Heinser. Dropping the first set 6-2, Miseviciute came back to dispatch her opponent over the next two sets to move to the next round.
Day two of the NCAA Championships saw Miseviciute and Kaluder dominate the 36th-ranked doubles pair from Pennsylvania in straight sets. A day off to rain gave Miseviciute a day of rest before taking on Miami’s Laura Vallverdu and the time off helped her push on through the singles draw, but the doubles squad would fall later in the day to the two-seed from Fresno State.
Taking on the eight seed in the next round of the singles tournament, Miseviciute faced off against eighth-ranked Riza Zalameda of UCLA and after a back-and-forth tussle, Arkansas’ determined netter would shut out her opponent in one set and use that as a springboard to the match victory.
In the semifinals of the singles draw, Miseviciute’s unbelievable season would finally come to a close when she lost to 25th-ranked Zuzana Zemenova of Baylor, 7-6 (2), 6-4.
Miseviciute’s efforts did not go unnoticed by the community at large as she was one of four women’s tennis student-athletes to be placed on the ballot for the Honda Award, which honors the top athlete in each major collegiate sport.
Although Miseviciute’s awards and honors may be a little under the radar, they never go unnoticed by her teammates or coaches.
“Without a doubt, Aurelija is definitely a special athlete and student,” Arkansas head coach Michael Hegarty said. “To be named an All-America as an athlete is something truly remarkable, but to be an All-America student as well is just unheard of.”
When her career as a Razorback student-athlete ends in May, Miseviciute will have established herself as one of the best to ever serve one up at the Billingsley Tennis Center.