ROCK HILL, S.C. (TheSAC.com) – Wingate's Daniel Belsito was voted the South Atlantic Conference Men's Tennis Scholar-Athlete of the Year, while Annie McCullough from Tusculum and Michela Verpelli from Wingate share the women's honor, the Conference office announced today.
The South Atlantic Conference Scholar-Athlete of the Year award is presented annually to one student-athlete in each of the Conference's championship sports, and is voted on by the SAC's Faculty Athletic Representatives Committee. The winners are selected based on their achievements in academics, athletics, service, and leadership.
Belsito, a senior from Charlotte, N.C., holds a 3.76 GPA as a sport management major. A two-time member of the South Atlantic Conference Commissioner's Honor Roll, Belsito has also seen his name on the Wingate President's and Dean's List, as well as an ITA Scholar-Athlete twice. He was also named to Third Team Academic All-America and Academic All-District.
"Daniel has been the leader of this team for the past few years now," Wingate head men's and women's tennis coach Michael Cabana says. "His leadership, confidence and dedication have been instrumental to the success of this program over the past few years. Not only is Daniel successful on court, but also he continues to have that same success in the classroom. We would not be where we are today without Daniel's dedication to the program on the court and in the classroom. It has been an honor to be his coach and watch him mature and grow over these past few years. I am excited to continue to watch his success after he graduates from Wingate."
The two-time Wingate co-captain has been a member of three first team all-conference doubles pairings and has twice been named first team all-conference in singles action. Belsito has been a top-20 nationally ranked singles and doubles player for the last two seasons, and he has helped lead the Bulldogs to three straight SAC regular season championships and back-to-back conference tournament tiles. Belsito was the 2019 SAC Men's Tennis Championship tournament MVP.
In every season as a Bulldog, Belsito has participated in the annual "Day of Caring" Service Projects, annual weekend junior tennis clinics at Providence Country Club, participated in sports management experiential learning projects, and led tennis clinics for the Wingate community. He has also spent the last two summers as an intern at Carolina Courts and has served at the First Presbyterian Church Sandwich Kitchen to support Charlotte Men's Shelter.
McCullough, a junior from Belfast, Northern Ireland, has earned a 3.978 GPA in chemistry. All three years of her Pioneer career, she has been a member of the SAC Commissioner's Honor Roll, Tusculum's Athletic Director's Honor Roll, the Dean's List, the President's List, Charles Oliver Gray Honors List, and an ITA Scholar-Athlete.
"Annie is a perfect example of everything we hope to see in a student-athlete here at Tusculum," said Tusculum head men's and women's tennis coach Adam Jackson. "She works as hard as anyone on campus, both in the classroom and on the court, and her commitment to excellence is evident in her grades and her accomplishments as an athlete."
The South Atlantic Conference Women's Tennis Player of the Year, McCullough is a three-time All-Conference selection in singles and a two-time first team in doubles with her sister Caitlin. Along with her sibling, McCullough has been a part of a nationally ranked doubles team for the past two seasons and is currently ranked in the top-25. The nationally ranked Tusculum team earned their first conference regular season title since 2009 this season and No. 1 seed in the tournament.
McCullough has been a member of the Pioneer Student-Athlete Advisory Committee as the team representative every year. She has also participated in Nettie Day of Service, a campus-wide community service project at Tusculum, and the Make-A-Wish Fun Run/Walk. McCullough has been a part of the tennis team efforts to assists a local family during the holiday season with Adopt-a-Family.
Verpelli, a senior from Milan, Italy, has earned a perfect 4.00 GPA in marketing and was the winner of this year's SAC Elite 20 Award for women's tennis. She was a member of the SAC Commissioner's Honor Roll in 2018, a two-time ITA Scholar-Athlete, and has been on the Wingate President's List three times.
"Michela has been such an asset to our tennis program over the past few years," said Cabana. "She has been the catalyst for our recent success and her impact on this program will be felt for a very long time. Michela is a very kind-hearted young lady and when she steps onto a tennis court she is a fierce competitor. She takes this champions mindset into the classroom with her as well, her tireless effort and dedication in the classroom are second to none. I have been honored for her to have called me her coach and I look forward to all the successes she will have after she graduates from Wingate University."
Verpelli, a two-time First Team All-Conference selection in singles and doubles, has been ranked as high as No. 14 in singles play and No. 18 in doubles action. She has led the Bulldogs to a 20-1 record this season and a ranking No. 14 in NCAA Division II. Wingate is also the top team in the region for the first time in program history. The 2019 SAC Women's Tennis Championship Tournament MVP, Verpelli has a 33-2 record at No. 1 singles against Division II opponents in her two year Bulldog career.
Verpelli has been an academic tutor in business production and has participated with the tennis team in Wingate's United Way Day of Caring by helping the local community. She previously assisted at the Special Olympics Italy events and games, a global organization that helps athletes with physical and intellectual disabilities.
SAC Men's Tennis Scholar-Athlete Finalists
Marc Bantel, Carson-Newman
Paul Lenz, Lenoir-Rhyne
SAC Women's Tennis Scholar-Athlete Finalists
Sanne Janssen, Lenoir-Rhyne
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