WKU tennis players transfer after head coaching change

Sophomore Monica Malinen plays a singles match against East Tennessee State University April 13, 2017 at the WKU tennis courts. Malinen, alongside her doubles partner freshman Moka Ito, defeated a Middle Tennessee State University pair 6-4.

The WKU tennis roster has worn thin after former head coach Jonatan Berhane’s departure.

WKU announced Tuesday that the school had hired a new head coach in Greg Davis following Berhane’s decision to take an assistant head coaching job at Alabama. The Lady Toppers lost a couple players after Berhane’s decision was made. 

Two former WKU players, Monica Malinen and Moka Ito, have transferred from WKU. Ito rejoined Berhane at Alabama, while Malinen headed west to continue her career at Colorado. 

Both players are already on their new program’s respective rosters, and Ito’s signing was announced by Alabama on May 24. 

Berhane’s hiring at Alabama was announced June 1. He now works under Alabama head coach Jenny Mainz. 

“I am very excited and honored to be given the opportunity to work for The University of Alabama, which has the best athletic department in the nation,” Berhane said in an Alabama press release. “I want to thank Jenny Mainz, Kevin Almond and Greg Byrne for giving me the opportunity to coach at Alabama, which I think is the biggest and best athletic brand name in the nation. I am very excited to work alongside Mainz, to help our student-athletes be successful and to have a women’s tennis program that is one of the best in the nation.”

Ito and Malinen will both look to build on successful experiences at WKU. Ito was the program’s first Conference USA Freshman of the Year, and was the fifth Lady Topper to earn First-Team all-conference honors. Malinen also earned All-C-USA honors on the Second Team in 2018. 

In addition to Ito and Malinen transferring, the team is also losing Elpida Malamou and Violetta Shatalova to graduation. That leaves WKU with rising juniors Cindy Oest and Natalia De Ugarte as the only two players remaining from the 2017-18 roster.