The Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) designates the top-16 seeds in the NCAA singles tournament and the top-eight seeds in the NCAA doubles tournament as All-Americans, regardless of their performance in the championships. Thus, Foster and Kalsarieva, who earned a "5-8" seed in the doubles championships after finishing the season ranked No. 7, pick up their first doubles All-America award.
Foster, a former KHSAA singles and doubles champion from Lexington Christian Academy, earns her first career All-America selection. The reigning ITA Southeast Region Rookie of the Year owns a 53-32 career singles record and a 60-28 doubles tally, including a 50-19 mark with Kalsarieva. Foster, who also will make her second-straight appearance in the NCAA singles championships, competed with Kalsarieva at the 2004 NCAA doubles championships, but the pair fell in the first round to Michigan's Michelle DaCosta and Kara Delicata.
"I didn't think it would happen so soon," Foster said of becoming an All-American as a sophomore. "We've had a lot of great coaching from (head coach) Mark (Guilbeau), (assistant coaches) Carlos (Drada) and Jonathan (Thompson), as well as a lot of support from the team. Without their investment in us, this never would have happened. We're really grateful for their efforts."
Aibika Kalsarieva (i-BEE-kuh kal-SAR-ee-a-vuh) collects her second and third All-America honors, making her the first Wildcat to garner three All-America selections since 2003, when Sarah Witten picked up her third and fourth All-America honors. The Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan-native joins Witten, Sonia Hahn and Tamaka Takagi as the only Wildcats to earn singles and doubles All-America selections. With her No. 4 singles seed, Kalsarieva ties Hahn for the highest singles seed awarded to a Wildcat. Hahn, now a co-head coach at Tennessee, claimed the No. 4 seed at the 1987 NCAA singles championships, though she was eliminated in the opening round.
"I'm excited to be an All-American three times in my time at Kentucky," Kalsarieva said. "My teammates and coaches have been so supportive the whole time I've been here. They've been really great, and I thank them for all of their help."
UK Coach Mark Guilbeau credits the team's dedication and work ethic in the Cats' success.
"To have that many individuals selected for the NCAA singles and doubles tournaments is a tremendous reward and reflection upon our team and the hard work that our entire team puts in," Guilbeau said. "You can't have that many kids reaching that level unless the great majority of your program is willing to work together, compromise, help each other, and most importantly, practice hard day in and day out. I'm extremely happy for those individuals to be extending their season and experiencing the NCAA individual tournament. For Sarah Foster, a Lexington native, to join Aibika (Kalsarieva) as an All-American is an incredible accomplishment and a great reward for her. Most importantly, I hope that all of our team members can use this as a motivator and another positive so that we will work hard enough to advance as a team and complete this great season with a deep run into the NCAA tournament."
The NCAA team tournament begins next Friday, May 13 with 16 four-team regionals throughout the nation. The 16 regional winners will head for Georgia's Dan Magill Tennis Complex to decide the national champion beginning on Thursday, May 19. The national-title match will be held on Sunday, May 22, and the 64-player NCAA singles championships will begin on the following day, May 23. The 32-team NCAA doubles competition will kick off on May 24.