2018 Case Western Reserve University graduate Nithya Kanagasegar is among the 581 nominees for the 2018 NCAA Woman of the Year, as announced by the NCAA.
Kanagasegar was one of 199 nominees from NCAA Division III. The NCAA Woman of the Year Award, which is in its 28th year, honors graduating female student-athletes who have distinguished themselves throughout their collegiate careers in the areas of academic achievement, athletics excellence, service and leadership.
Kanagasegar played at first singles throughout the season for CWRU and finished her career as third in school history in singles victories with a 56-48 record. She was ranked 36th in Division III and seventh in the Central Region. In the doubles rankings, Kanagasegar and freshman Madeleine Paolucci checked in at tied for 10th in the final Division III rankings, and were the second-ranked duo in the Central Region.
Kanagasegar and Paolucci became the first All-Americans in the history of the women's tennis program with a win in the first round of the 2018 NCAA Division III Doubles Tournament in Claremont, California. The duo ended the season with a 23-9 mark in doubles play together, matching the program record for doubles victories in a season. Kanagasegar leaves the program as one of the top players in its history, as she is the all-time leader in doubles win with a 76-32 career ledger. She is the only Spartan women's tennis player to date to be named the UAA Most Outstanding Performer, accomplishing the feat during the 2018 campaign.
Off the court, Kanagasegar was selected as the first recipient of the ITA Ann Lebedeff Leadership Award, endowed by Billie Jean King. The ITA Ann Lebedeff Leadership Award was created to honor a recent college graduate who played college tennis and demonstrated excellence on and off the court, leadership on his or her team as well as on his or her college campus and in his or her community. The annual recipient of the award will have demonstrated grit (i.e. passion and perseverance towards long-term goals), a commitment to social justice and equality and will have pushed others to be leaders in addition to demonstrating his or her own leadership.
Kanagasegar communicated her concerns with discrimination and injustices to CWRU Director of Athletics and Chair of Physical Education Amy Backus and moderated the first Sustained Dialogue group in the country specifically for student-athletes to eliminate any future issues. She assisted with sponsoring on-court events to either raise money for or to directly interact with local youth to provide them with tennis, health, fitness, literacy and creative expressions programs (such as Inner-City Tennis Clinics (ICTC). Through her experiences in higher education, she learned the significance of striving for social justice, and has been fortunate that tennis has provided her with a way to transform her community and encourage equality.
The Top 30 nominees (10 per division) for the 2018 NCAA Woman of the Year Award will be announced in early September, and the Top 9 finalists (three per division) will be selected in late September. The 2018 NCAA Woman of the Year Award winner will be announced at the awards dinner Sunday, October 28, in Indianapolis.