Two Sun Belt Tennis players earn Academic All-America First Team honors

From the Sun Belt Conference

Two Sun Belt Conference women's tennis players were named to the Capital One Academic All-America At-Large First Team, the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) announced Thursday. Louisiana-Monroe's Claire Clark and UALR's Rebecca Van Den Houte earned the honors.

"We are all very proud of Rebecca for what she has accomplished here at UALR," said head coach Abby Wilson. "She has been great leader for us, both on and off the court."

A Business Administration major with a perfect 4.00 GPA, Van Den Houte capped off her four-year career at UALR by being named to the Women's Doubles All-Sun Belt Conference team at the end of her senior season. The Sint-Amands, Belgium, native served as team captain in her final year, finishing the 2011 season with a team-best 17 singles victories to go along with a combined 15-5 record in doubles play. She and teammate Veronique Luksich, also an all-conference selection, went 12-3 in 2011 and 25-6 as a tandem over the past two seasons.

Van Den Houte was named the SBC Player of the Week on March 2 after going a perfect 8-0 - 4-0 in singles, 4-0 in doubles - in an undefeated week for the UALR tennis team. Starting in Omaha, Neb., on February 22, Van Den Houte helped the Trojans to a flawless 7-0 win over Nebraska-Omaha with wins in both her singles and doubles matches. Staying in Omaha, Van Den Houte's points were crucial in UALR's 4-3 win against Creighton the very next day, as the senior again went unbeaten. Two days later, Van Den Houte and the Trojans stayed perfect, taking a pair of victories over Nebraska-Kearney and South Dakota to cap off an undefeated week.

In the fall, Van Den Houte will return to Little Rock to begin work on a master's degree in Business Administration at the UALR College of Business.

Clark is just the ninth ULM student-athlete to earn CoSIDA First Team Academic All-America honors and the first since Drew Prisner earned the honor in 1994. The native of Bossier City, La., was a second team selection last season and a third team honoree in 2009; student-athletes are not eligible their freshman year.

"Claire is a shining light and a source of great pride for the ULM family," ULM Director of Athletics Bobby Staub said. "She epitomizes excellence both in the classroom and on the court and is very deserving of this tremendous award."

She was one of 12 ULM students to graduate with a perfect 4.0 grade-point-average at the University's Spring Commencement ceremony on May 21. Clark received her undergraduate degree in kinesiology and is currently working towards her postgraduate degree at the LSU Health Science Center in Shreveport, La.

Clark, the unanimous selection for Louisiana Player of the Year, has earned numerous awards over the past month. She received the Sun Belt Conference Female Postgraduate Scholarship Award, was named All-Sun Belt in singles and doubles, was named All-Louisiana and received ULM's Top Female Student-Athlete Award.

Clark helped lead ULM to the nation's second longest win streak (17) and a national ranking of 46 during the 2011 season. She lost just four sets all spring and finished the year with records of 18-1 in singles and 19-1 in doubles; Clark finished her singles career 63-4 in dual matches.

The At-Large Academic All-America Team is comprised of student-athletes from the following sports: bowling, crew, fencing, field hockey, golf, gymnastics, ice hockey, lacrosse, rifle, skiing, swimming, tennis, volleyball and water polo.