Santiago Perez, Ramirez, Muhammad named ITA All-America

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Santiago Perez, Juan Ramirez and Kareemah Muhammad

Men: ITA NAIA All-America list
Women: ITA NAIA All-America list

NEW ORLEANS — The Intercollegiate Tennis Association announced Thursday its NAIA All-Americans for the 2021-22 season, and Xavier University of Louisiana has three: Santiago Perez and Juan Ramirez on the men’s team, and Kareemah Muhammad on the women’s.

Players qualify for these teams by being in the top 20 of singles or the top 10 of doubles in the end-of-season ITA NAIA individual rankings. Perez was No. 2 in singles and, with Ramirez, No. 3 in doubles. Muhammad was No. 14 in singles.

Perez, a senior from Pereira, Colombia, and Kyle Montrel (2013-16) are the only XULA men to earn ITA NAIA All-America four times. Ramirez, a senior from Cartago, Colombia, made the team for the second consecutive season. Muhammad is a freshman from Tustin, Calif.

Perez was 21-1 in singles and 17-4 in doubles and led the Gold Rush to a 20-6 record — XULA’s first 20-win season of the modern era (1994-present) — and a quarterfinal berth at NAIA nationals. On March 16 he became XULA’s first-ever national No. 1 in the ITA NAIA men’s singles rankings. In April he was named player of the year of a 13-team NAIA unaffiliated group that consisted of teams from the Red River, Sooner, Heart of America and American Midwest conferences.

Ramirez was 15-12 in singles and 27-7 in doubles — he led the Gold Rush in doubles victories — and stepped up to No. 1 singles in Perez’s absence (injury) at the NAIA unaffiliated group qualifying tournament. XULA won three dual matches in 27 hours at that event, and Perez clinched the title with his 7-6 (7-5), 6-3 victory against Vaclav Schneider of William Woods.

Ramirez and Jacobi Bain were NAIA doubles runner-up at the ITA Cup in October.

Muhammad and a freshman teammate, Valaine Clarke, were an NAIA Gulf ITA regional doubles champion in October as an unseeded team. Muhammad missed 17 singles matches and 12 doubles matches during the spring because of injury, but she recovered in time to help the Gold Nuggets reach the NAIA national quarterfinals and earn three victories in the final six weeks against top-16 NAIA teams. Muhammad was voted Red River Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year, and she won both her singles matches at NAIA nationals.

Also Thursday, Perez was announced as ITA NAIA South Region Senior Player of the Year.

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