The Big Sky Conference has been celebrating the league's success both on and off the playing field by honoring 50 years of men's athletics and 25 years of women's athletics. The 50th anniversary celebrates the all-time individuals, teams and moments in the Big Sky's history, including the selection of the league's "50 Greatest Male Athletes" and the "25 Greatest Female Athletes." Along with these lists, the league will unveil the most memorable moments for both men's and women's competition.
Katrina Zheltova, who played for the Hornets from 2007-10, made the list of "greatest women's moments" where she checks in at No. 23 for her performances in the 2007 and 2008 NCAA Singles Tournament. Zheltova finished her career as one of just two All-Americans in Hornet women's tennis history when she earned the honor in 2008. She was also a three-time Big Sky MVP, a member of the Sacramento State women's tennis all-decade team, and finished with a 52-17 dual-match singles record (.754 winning percentage). Below is a story published on the Big Sky Conference's website....
As a freshman with the Sacramento State women's tennis team, Katrina Zheltova won a first-round match in the 2007 NCAA Singles Tournament. Her success carried over to the next season (2008), where she made it to the Round of 16 and earned All-America honors. During that two-year tournament run, she defeated two of the nation's top 25 players.
Zheltova's multiple wins in the NCAA Tournament place her at No. 23 on the Big Sky's list of "25 Greatest Women's Moments."
"During her freshman year, she played well. But she was, like many freshmen, still learning things,'' said Sacramento State Director of Tennis Bill Campbell. "The talent was always there."
Zheltova, a native of Minsk, Belarus, not only had to adjust to her first year of college, she also had to adjust to living in America.
"When you arrive in the United States and you're 17 or 18 (years old), you go outside and people ask 'How are you?' It shocks you because you've never hear that back home," she said.
As a freshman, during the first round of the 2007 NCAA Singles Tournament, Zheltova defeated Vanja Corovic of Texas, who was ranked 24th in the nation. In the second round, she fell to Natalie Frazier of Georgia, who was ranked seventh in the nation at the time.
In the first round of the 2008 Singles Tournament, Zheltova defeated Laura Gioia of Furman. In the second round, she defeated Sanaz Marand of North Carolina, who was ranked ninth in the nation. Coupled with her 2007 performance, Zheltova knocked off a pair of the nation's top 25 players over a two-year span.
"My first two matches were three-set matches, and it was stressful," said Zheltova. "As long as you get past the first round, the next one comes easier even though the players are still very good."
"Her second season, everything kind of came together," said Campbell, "She was comfortable being here and she was comfortable with school."
Zheltova eventually lost to fourth-ranked Maria Mosolova of Northwestern in straight sets in the Round of 16.
"I was playing (Mosolova), and I knew her,'' Zheltova said. "She was from Russia. You feel that pressure because she is your friend, and it's a little different.
"When I think about that Round of 16, the first thing I saw was that our coach (Dima Hrynashka) was really happy," said Zheltova. "I was happy I could prove to him that I could do it."
"She was a very hard worker, and such a good competitor,'' said Campbell, "She also became a very good student as she progressed in her academic career."
As a junior, Zheltova made the NCAA Singles Tournament and lost in the opening round to Gira Schofield of South Carolina in three sets. During her senior season, Zheltova missed 11 matches due to an injury, and subsequently did not qualify for the NCAA Tournament.