SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Barry University's Maria Lopez was named the women's tennis National Assistant Coach of the Year Tuesday.
It marks the second straight year Lopez has won the award.
"I was very excited last year," Lopez said. "With this being my second year winning the award, I think I'm more shocked this time than the first time."
A former All-American player at Barry, Lopez was named a full-time assistant in November. She has been an assistant coach in some of the Buccaneers' most storied teams in school history. In 2011, she served on a coaching staff that won the national championship. Last year, she coached the Bucs to an undefeated regular season and trip to the NCAA semifinals.
This year, she's helped steer the Buccaneers to its first No. 1 national ranking prior to the national championships, following another unbeaten regular season under the guidance of head coach Avi Kigel.
"It's been great to have the support of the administration," Lopez said. "Avi has been a great mentor for me. There's been many people that have guided me to where I am as a coach, and I am truly grateful for them. The experiences that I've had with some of the former and current players have helped shape me to the coach I am today."
Lopez has helped Barry to a 26-0 season this year, entering Wednesday's Round of 16 match against Midwestern State at the NCAA Championships.
"Obviously, we've had a great season," she said. "Our goal is always to accomplish those small little obstacles that we encounter throughout the season, with the big picture in mind. Our main goal is to win the national championship. That's the ultimate goal that we strive to accomplish when we meet with the players on the first day of school.
"It's a great accomplishment for myself. In this job, sometimes we forget to reward ourselves a little bit. For me, it's kind of a pat on the back to say, 'You're doing an OK job.' There's plenty of great assistant coaches out there that are doing a great job to inspire players. That's what I strive to do every day. I want my own players to think that I am the best coach that they have. That's what's most important."