NEWPORT, RI – Western Carolina University rising sophomore Julia Pezzuco has been named USTA Rhode Island’s College Tennis Player of the Year, for the 2018-19 school year. Pezzuco, from Johnston, RI, is receiving the Jill Craybas Award, as the state’s female college player of the year.

The awards will be presented during an on-court ceremony at the Tennis Hall of Fame Open, Wednesday, July 17 in Newport. The awards are presented by USTA Rhode Island to the male and the female college players of the year who are from the Ocean State, but not necessarily playing at a Rhode Island school.

“This award is in line with our mission statement of promoting the growth and development of tennis in the state, including college tennis,” said Douglas Chapman, USTA Rhode Island’s President, and CEO. “The award was named after Rhode Island’s most successful college player of the past and has become a prestigious honor for the recipient.”

Pezzuco follows in the footsteps of her older sister, Natalia, who received last year's Craybas Award while competing for Union College.

She had a solid freshman season for the Catamounts. Pezzuco played in 21 matches for WCU, turning in an overall record of 13-8. She also played in 21 doubles matches and was 14-7 overall, playing a majority of matches at No. 2 doubles with fellow freshman Jacy Smith (Bryan, Texas) with a record of 12-5 together. The Catamounts, coached by Bret Beaver, finished with a 12-10 dual match record.

Pezzuco is a graduate of The Wheeler School in Providence, R.I., where she captured the Rhode Island Interscholastic League girls’ singles state title in 2016 and was also named the 2017 RI Girls’ Tennis Player of the Year.

In 2015, Pezzuco reached the title round of the state tournament. Playing at the No.1 spot in the Wheeler lineup the following season, she posted a 16-2 regular-season mark, with her only losses coming at the hands of the then three-time defending state champion Peri Sheinin. During the state tournament, Pezzuco won a tight three-set match in the final, dethroning Sheinin, and handing her the only defeat of her four-year high school career. Pezzuco became Wheeler’s third athlete (joining Marissa Alikpala ‘01 and Jane Forman ‘80) to ever capture the Rhode Island girls’ singles state championship.

She finished her high school career as a two-time First Team All-State selection and a two-time First Team All-Division selection playing girls' tennis. As a senior, she chose to play for the boy’s team and earned Second Team All-State honors in boys' tennis.

Pezzuco earned a Silver Ball as a finalist at the USTA National Women’s Open Grass Court tournament and a Bronze Ball after placing third at the USTA National Mixed Open Grass Court. She also won several USTA junior tournament sportsmanship awards.

About the Award

Jill Craybas – A native of East Greenwich, Craybas is the most successful tennis player in Rhode Island history. She was a RIISL high school state singles champion for the Lincoln School and captured the 1996 NCAA singles championship for the University of Florida when she was the National College Player of the Year. She is the only player in NCAA history to be a member of Division I championship teams at two different schools (Texas and Florida). A two-time SEC Player of the Year, she finished her college career with a 124-18 record. A Florida Gator Hall of Famer, she played nearly 20 years on the WTA Tour. She won the 2002 Japan Open and five doubles titles on the main tour. She was ranked as high as #3 in the US and #41 in the world. A regular for the US Fed Cup team. Her most notable result came at Wimbledon in 2005, where she defeated Serena Williams and Marion Bartoli.


Jill Craybas Award

2019 -- Julia Pezzuco (Johnston), Western Carolina University

2018 – Natalia Pezzuco (Johnston), Union College

2017 – Evelyn Miller (Smithfield), Colby-Sawyer

2016 – Sadie Campanella (Chepachet), Rhode Island College

2015 – Rebecca Curran (Rumford), Williams College