Big Challenge

Big Challenge

Georgia State alumnus Miha Lisac is the latest hire charged with extracting WVU women's tennis from its moribund state.

Saddled with losing records for the last three seasons, the West Virginia women's tennis program is clearly in need of revitalization. WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck believes he has found the person to provide that bounce in the form of Lisac, who has forged a notable career as both a player and a coach at Georgia State.

Lisac will be just the sixth coach in the 41-year history of the program, but is the fifth since 2001, when Alicia Von Lossberg piloted the Mountaineers to a 7-14 mark in her sole season as coach.

Lisac replaces Tina Samara, who parlayed a 16-47 three-year record at West Virginia into a head coaching job at Wisconsin.

A native of Slovenia, Lisac has mapped out a vision for improvement of the program.

"I have formed a vision for what I see a top program, in a top conference or in the nation, to look like. Obviously, West Virginia playing in the Big 12, which on the women's side is extremely strong—it is one of the top conferences around, and having the potential to also compete for some of the top spots in the nation, I've really kind of ironed out a plan as to what the program will look like," Lisac explained.

"The vision that I put together is a long-term vision and we will have to take a step-by-step approach to getting to that point, but it is very important to me that we take the right steps and start building the team from the inside out. There are a lot of steps we will be taking from here on and we will be setting the bar at the highest standard. The vision I have for building a top program is not just related to the team, recruiting, what we do on the court and academically, but also the way we build a tennis community in Morgantown.

"I have to thank Oliver Luck, Keli Cunningham, who was in charge of the search committee, Mary Ellen Jones, Terri Howes, Matt Borman and everybody I had a chance to meet, for believing in me, giving me this opportunity and putting faith in myself and in the vision that I presented for the women's tennis program," Lisac said in a prepared statement. "I feel very fortunate to be in this position and to be a part of such an institution. It is an outstanding opportunity."

Lisac is a former student-athlete and men's assistant coach at Georgia State, who finished his sixth season as head coach of the women's tennis program at his alma mater following the 2012-13 season. Lisac, the 2009 CAA Coach of the Year, took over the head coaching position in the summer of 2007 after serving as the men's assistant coach from 2005-07. In six seasons at the helm, Lisac led the women's tennis program to one conference title, a berth in the Sun Belt Conference Championship Finals, back-to-back CAA Championship finals appearances and two other berths in the CAA Championship semifinals.

His overall record is 55-38 as a head coach, with the highlight of his tenure in 2009 when he guided Georgia State to its first NCAA appearance in program history and was named the CAA Coach of the Year in only his second season at the helm.

"It is clear that Miha has experienced much success both as a player, and, most recently, as a coach," Luck said. "He is the type of person that takes pride in doing things the right way and knows what it takes to win. We are eager for him to come in and continue to grow the Mountaineer women's tennis program to a championship-caliber program."

In 2010-11, the Panthers achieved a No. 55 ranking to finish the season, earning a spot at the national indoor tournament in the spring. The tournament takes the top 64 teams in the nation. GSU enjoyed an outstanding season, advancing to the CAA Championship finals and earning a 15-4 overall record, including an 8-2 mark on the road. The Panthers earned the No. 3 seed in the CAA Championships and Tere-Apisah was named CAA Championship Most Outstanding Performer after going undefeated at No. 1 singles. It marked the second time a Georgia State women's tennis player received the award, following Martina Ondrackova in 2009.

In Lisac's third season as head coach, the team reached the semifinal round of the CAA tournament for the third straight year while producing two All-CAA athletes in Diana Nakic (first team singles, second team doubles) and Linda Hricistova (second team doubles). Nakic was named CAA Co-Player of the Year after a season in which she went a perfect 17-0 in singles in dual match play, and she was selected for the NCAA Singles Championship.

In 2009, Lisac presided over one of the most successful women's tennis campaigns in Georgia State history as the Panthers captured their first conference title to reach the NCAA Championships for the first time ever. GSU posted an 11-5 record and finished the year with a national ranking of No. 47.

For his efforts, Lisac was honored as CAA Coach of the Year. Diana Nakic was named both Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year in the conference and was one of four Panthers on the All-CAA squad, along with Martina Nitkova (first team singles), Dariana Kozmina (second team singles) and Linda Hricistova (second team doubles). Nakic also became the first GSU female to earn selection to the NCAA Singles Championship.

In his head coaching debut in 2007-08, Lisac led the Panthers to an 11-9 dual match record and a berth in the semifinals of the CAA tournament. Three Panthers earned all-CAA honors in Dariana Kozmina, Martina Nitkova and Katerina Gresova.

Lisac's team posted the highest GPA among all GSU teams on several occasions, recording its highest GPA of 3.72 in the fall of 2007, including multiple Panthers named to the CAA Commissioner's Academic Award list.

In back-to-back years, women's tennis standouts Mateja Podgorsek (2008) and Martina Nitkova (2009) won Georgia State's High Five Award as the female student-athlete with the highest GPA. Podgorsek was also named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District Second Team in 2008, while Nitkova was honored as the 2009 CAA Scholar-Athlete of the Year for women's tennis.

Before moving to the head coaching position, Lisac worked under Nick Brochu, former head coach for the men's tennis squad, for two seasons. In 2007, Lisac helped guide the men's tennis team to its first league title as a member of the CAA and an NCAA berth. That year, Martin Steigwardt became the first Panther in history to compete in the NCAA Singles Championship. The 2007 squad set the school record for dual match victories with a 19-5 mark and ended the season ranked No. 36 in the country.

Lisac was born and raised in Velenje in the European nation of Slovenia, where he was ranked among the country's top 10 juniors. A 2005 graduate of Georgia State, Lisac lettered four years for the Panthers and was a two-time All-Atlantic Sun Conference selection and a four-time recipient of conference academic honors. He will begin work on Aug. 27. Recommended Stories

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