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    Sujay Lama Named A-State Women’s Tennis Head Coach

    August 16, 2023

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    JONESBORO, Ark. (8/16/23) – Arkansas State Vice Chancellor for Intercollegiate Athletics Jeff Purinton announced Wednesday the hire of Sujay Lama as the school’s eighth head women’s tennis coach.

    “We are excited to announce Sujay Lama as our new head women’s tennis coach,” said Purinton.  “We conducted a national search that received great interest, and Sujay stood out as the right choice at the right time.  Our conversations about Sujay with administrators and coaches across the country were all very similar – that he is an outstanding coach and recruiter, but an even better person who cares deeply about his student-athletes and is highly involved in the community.  Guiding teams to multiple conference championships and NCAA Tournament appearances, Sujay is a proven winner who has a track record of success.  We want to welcome Sujay and his family to our Red Wolves pack, and we look forward to him leading our women’s tennis program.”

    Lama brings 28 years of collegiate coaching experience to A-State after most recently serving as head coach at North Texas the past 17 seasons. His teams won 195 dual matches at UNT, and he has 304 overall victories in his head coaching career that includes eight seasons at Illinois. He has coached teams to eight NCAA Tournament appearances as well as seven NCAA individual tournament appearances.

    “I would like to thank Jeff Purinton and (SWA) Amy Holt for trusting me to lead the Arkansas State women’s tennis program,” said Lama. “Their vision and mission are aligned with mine. We will strive for excellence both on and off the court and be great ambassadors for the university. I am very excited to meet the team and get to work with them as soon as possible. Together, we will focus on the process and the controllables and become a close-knit family. The sky is the limit for this program, and we are going to dream big. Go Red Wolves!”

    During his time leading the Mean Green, Lama mentored 21 student-athletes to 38 all-conference honors, including back-to-back Conference USA Newcomer of the Year honorees Lucie Devier (2021) and Maria Ponomareva (2020). He guided the Mean Green to the league semifinals or finals 10 times and led North Texas to Sun Belt titles and NCAA Tournament berths in 2010, 2012 and 2013. Under his guidance, the Mean Green had wins over Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Kansas, Arizona, SMU and TCU, among others.

    From 2015 through 2019 he coached Tamuna Kutubidze and Maria Kononova, the winningest individual tennis players and winningest doubles team in program history at North Texas. He guided Kononova to the program’s first individual NCAA Tournament appearance and the doubles team to the program’s first NCAA Doubles Tournament and ITA Texas Regional championship. For his efforts, he is a three-time Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year (2010, 2012, 2013) and was named the 2013 Jim Verdieck College Coach of the Year by the Professional Tennis Registry (PTR), an award given by the leading tennis-teaching professional organization in the world.

    The Mean Green’s success was not limited to the court. North Texas picked up ITA All-Academic team honors for 17 consecutive seasons, and Lama’s teams received NCAA awards for having an APR score in the top 10 percent of all of Division I programs five times during his tenure.

    Prior to becoming North Texas’s 10th coach in program history, Lama spent eight years as the women’s tennis coach at the University of Illinois. The Fighting Illini saw significant improvement with Lama at the helm. In his first year, Lama transformed the Illini from 8-13 and ninth in the Big Ten the previous season to a squad that was ranked No. 10 in the region and No. 75 in the nation.

    The Illini continued to see significant improvement during each of Lama’s eight seasons. In 2003-04, the Illini went 17-6, posting their best winning percentage since the program’s first team went 6-0 in 1975. Lama’s 2003-04 squad also earned the highest national ranking in program history at No. 16. In 2003, the Orange and Blue knocked off top-ranked Duke, 4-3, at the UI Atkins Tennis Center.

    Lama’s teams reached a number of milestones during his time in Champaign-Urbana. The Illini won their first NCAA Tournament match in May 2001. The program also had its first Big Ten Freshman of the Year, the Rookie of the Year in the Midwest Region, 10 All-Big Ten players, four Big Ten Medal of Honor players, 13 ITA Scholar-Athletes and two Academic All-Americans. UI’s women’s tennis players earned Academic All-Big Ten recognition 39 times under Lama.

    Overall, Illinois was 108-84 with a Big Ten record of 60-34 during Lama’s time there. He produced squads that made five NCAA team tournament appearances as well as five NCAA individual tournament appearances.

    Before his stint at Illinois, Lama served as the top assistant under then-Florida coach Andy Brandi from 1995-98, helping the Gators win two NCAA titles and three SEC crowns while also posting three undefeated dual-match seasons. Lama was honored for his contributions as the 1997 ITA National Assistant Coach of the Year in the South Region.

    Prior to Florida, Lama was the Senior Staff Professional at the Van Der Meer Tennis Center in Hilton Head, South Carolina, where he worked with the elite player development program for touring pros and top junior players from 1992-95.

    He was a traveling coach on the WTA tour for several players, including top-20 ranked Amanda Coetzer (South Africa) and Naoko Sawamatsu (Japan). Lama has coached at 12 Grand Slam events including Wimbledon, U.S Open, Australian Open and French Open.

    As a player, Lama was the top-ranked player in Nepal from 1989-91 and reached No. 50 in the International Tennis Federation (ITF) junior world singles rankings. He represented his country in several international tournaments, including the Asian Games in Beijing, China, in 1990.

    The Nepal native attended Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, from 1988-92 and was a three-time Volvo Collegiate All-American in singles (1990-92). He also earned Senior Player of the Year honors in the Midwest Region in 1992 and was ranked No. 5 in NCAA Division III singles. Lama dominated the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in four years competing for Luther.

    He won the league’s singles and doubles titles and took conference MVP honors all four years of his collegiate career, leading his team to four IIAC championships. Lama put together a career singles record of 104-18 and captured two Rolex Midwest Regionals (1989 and 1991), while advancing to the semifinals of the Rolex National Intercollegiate Indoor Championship in 1991. Lama also made three NCAA Tournament appearances. He was inducted into the school’s athletic hall of fame in the fall of 2002 and in 2017 received the Most Distinguished Alumni Service Award.

    Lama earned his bachelor’s degree in Public Communications/Political Science from Luther College in 1992, earning GTE/CoSIDA Academic All-America honors during his time there.

    A noted teacher and clinician, Lama has worked at tennis camps across the United States, Europe and Asia. He has earned the highest certification level with the USPTR and the USPTA and is a USTA Certified High Performance Coach.

    Lama has traveled to more than 50 countries and is fluent in English, German, Hindi and Nepalese. He has lived five or more years on three continents – Asia, Europe and North America. He has lent his time and expertise to a unique venture called Project Nepal, a non-profit endeavor aimed at educating orphaned and indigent Nepalese children.

    Lama and his wife, Lynne, have two children, his daughter, Priya (23) and his son, Siddhartha (18). Siddhartha is set to join the Butler men’s tennis team this fall.

    What They Are Saying
    “Sujay Lama is one of the most respected coaches in our sport. Sujay has successfully mentored hundreds of players and has won numerous championships along his tennis journey. His passion for building programs and positively impacting others are some of the things I have admired. Sujay has helped me become a better coach and also a better husband and father. The Red Wolves certainly got a lot better today with this hire. I am so excited for their future together!”
    Bryan Shelton Former Florida Men’s Head Coach / Former Georgia Tech Women’s Head Coach

    “I’ve known Sujay for years, and he is a great coach, leader and person. He is an excellent choice for Arkansas State, and I’m confident he will do a fantastic job with the program.”
    Stella Sampras-Webster UCLA Head Coach

    “Coach Lama and Arkansas State are a perfect match!  Together they will excel and climb the conference and national rankings year after year.  I had the privilege of working with Sujay during his first six years as coach at North Texas.  Through his leadership, we were able to go from last in the Sun Belt Conference to first in a short amount of time.  And we also climbed into the top 40 in the D1 rankings!  Coach Lama is one of the best coaches in the country, and so I have no doubt that he will duplicate this feat again at A-State.”
    Jeff Maren Liberty Head Coach

    “Arkansas State has landed a great hire in Sujay Lama. With Sujay’s experience, knowledge, work ethic and passion for coaching, great things are ahead for the women’s program.”
    Andi Brandi Former Florida Head Coach

    Sujay Lama Coaching Career Highlights
    Year          School (Pos)           Record     Highlights

    1995-96     Florida (AC)            31-0 (14-0 SEC)     NCAA Champions
    1996-97     Florida (AC)            31-1 (14-0 SEC)     NCAA Runner-Up
    1997-98     Florida (AC)            27-0 (14-0 SEC)     NCAA Champions
    1998-99     Illinois (HC)            13-8 (7-4 B10)       B10 Tournament Semifinals / NCAA Tournament
    1999-00     Illinois (HC)            13-11 (8-4 B10)     B10 Tournament Semifinals / NCAA Tournament
    2000-01     Illinois (HC)            18-8 (9-1 B10)       2nd in B10 / NCAA Tournament Win
    2001-02     Illinois (HC)            11-12 (6-5 B10)     NCAA Singles Tournament
    2002-03     Illinois (HC)            17-8 (9-3 B10)       3rd in B10 / NCAA Tournament Win / NCAA Doubles
    2003-04     Illinois (HC)            17-6 (8-3 B10)       NCAA Tournament / NCAA Doubles
    2004-05     Illinois (HC)            12-11 (6-5 B10)     NCAA Singles
    2005-06     Illinois (HC)            8-15 (3-9 B10)      
    2006-07     North Texas (HC)    2-19 (0-3 SBC)      
    2007-08     North Texas (HC)    13-9 (5-2 SBC)       UNT best win percentage since 1986-87
    2008-09     North Texas (HC)    17-6 (2-1 SBC)       SBC Tournament Semifinals
    2009-10     North Texas (HC)    17-7 (8-1 SBC)       SBC Champions / NCAA Tournament
    2010-11     North Texas (HC)    10-12 (4-3 SBC)     SBC Tournament Semifinals
    2011-12     North Texas (HC)    18-7 (6-0 SBC)       SBC Champions / NCAA Tournament
    2012-13     North Texas (HC)    18-6 (7-0 SBC)       SBC Champions / NCAA Tournament
    2013-14     North Texas (HC)    11-11 (4-2 C-USA)  C-USA Tournament Semifinals
    2014-15     North Texas (HC)    9-14 (2-2 C-USA)   C-USA Tournament Semifinals
    2015-16     North Texas (HC)    13-10 (2-0 C-USA)  C-USA Tournament Semifinals
    2016-17     North Texas (HC)    11-12 (0-1 C-USA)  C-USA Tournament Semifinals
    2017-18     North Texas (HC)    9-14 (2-3 C-USA)   C-USA Tournament Quarterfinals / NCAA Singles
    2018-19     North Texas (HC)    13-11 (4-3 C-USA)  C-USA Tournament Semifinals / NCAA Doubles
    2019-20     North Texas (HC)    7-7 (2-2 C-USA)     COVID-19 Pandemic
    2020-21     North Texas (HC)    6-13 (2-1 C-USA)  
    2021-22     North Texas (HC)    10-12 (3-3 C-USA)  C-USA Tournament Quarterfinals
    2022-23     North Texas (HC)    11-12 (0-5 C-USA)  C-USA Tournament Quarterfinals

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    Sujay Lama Named A-State Women’s Tennis Head Coach. Article may or may not reflect the views of KLEK 102.5 FM or The Voice of Arkansas Minority Advocacy Council

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