Mickael Sopel has done an impressive job turning the Youngstown State men's and women's tennis teams into the top programs of the Horizon League.
Entering his seventh season as the Head Coach of the women's tennis program, the Penguins have won five league titles. He had overseen the men's program for five years as well helping lead the Guins to the conference tournament semifinals on three occasions. In 2018-19, he began his role as the Director of Tennis for the program and turned his focus primiarily on the women's team.
In his first five years, the women advanced to the NCAA Tournament each season while the men's program made major strides.
The women's program has won five Horizon League postseason championships and three regular-season crowns under Sopel's leadership. They have had two Players of the Year, 12 first-team all-league selections and two second-team all-league honorees. The Guins have won 12 straight Horizon League tournament matches under Sopel. The men have had nine players receive all-conference recognition and win two league speciality awards.
In his six years as women's coach the Penguins are 81-71. Both programs have had players receive the Horizon League's Herb Foster Sportsmanship Award - Annina Brendel for the women in 2016 and Silviu Mistreanu for the men in 2015. YSU had never had an athlete receive the award on either side in the program's history.
In 2018, the women's program ended the year by winning 16 of their final 20 matches. The Penguins shared the regular-season title with UIC, but doused the Flames 4-0 in the Horizon League Championship match to advance to the NCAA Regionals. The Guins played No. 8 seed Florida in Gainesville in the fifth straight NCAA appearance. YSU was 8-1 in Horizon League play and The 16 wins were the second most in school history behind 17 in 2014-15.
The men's team was 12-11 overall, the second straight campaign it had a winning record. The last time YSU had consecutive winning seasons was 1989-90 and 1990-91. Danylo Veremiechuk (first team) and Joao Garretto (second team) earned all-league accolades.
In 2017, the men's program set a school record for wins with 19 while advancing to the Horizon League semifinals for the second time in program history. Three players received all-conference accolades as Mitch Maroscher (first team), Thomas Rodrigues (second team) and Veremeichuk (second team) all earned honors. In away matches, the Guins were 8-1 setting a school-record for most road wins in a season.
The women claimed their fourth straight Horizon League postseason crown while earning the regular-season title in the process in 2017. YSU shared the regular-season title with Cleveland State and UIC, but was the top seed in the HL Tournament. The Penguins picked up wins over Detroit Mercy and Wright State to reach the NCAA Regionals. YSU visited Michigan in the postseason to take on the Wolverines. A pair of Penguins - Dominika Lackova and Nsimba - were first-team all-league honorees. It was the fourth straight year Lackova was named first-team all-league.
In 2016, the Penguins faced the long road to their third consecutive league title. YSU had two win three matches at the conference championship. The Guins did that by beating Oakland, UIC and Wright State. Against the Raiders, YSU dropped the doubles point, but four singles wins gave it another conference championship. The Penguins played at No. 4 Ohio State in the NCAA Regionals.
Lackova was tabbed the Horizon League's Player of the Year while earning all-league accolades for the third straight season.
During the spring of 2015, the women's team won a school record 17 dual matches, had a nine-match winning streak, posted a perfect 8-0 Horizon League mark, won the conference regular-season title for the first time in school history and also won the postseason crown as well.
Marta Burak was named the Horizon League's Player of the Year and she became the first tennis player to be named YSU's Scholar-Athlete of the Year (male or female). Burak was a four-time first-team all-league selection and posted a career record of 38-1 in Horizon League play.
In the Horizon League tournament, the Guins knocked off UIC for the first time in the postseason in the semifinals. In the championship match, YSU dropped the doubles point before rallying for four singles wins to knock off Detroit. In the NCAA Regionals, the Penguins were matched up against No. 1-ranked USC in Los Angeles.
The men had a strong Horizon League season finishing second and recording four league wins. YSU beat Cleveland State, UIC, Wright State and Detroit during the league slate and finished tied for seconds. Remi Chancerel was named first-team all-conference and Newcomer of the Year while Hugo Morth was a second-team honoree. Mistreanu was the recipient of the Herb Foster Sportsmanship Award.
It was a whirlwind first season for Sopel in 2013-14 as he took over both squads in early September after spending less than a year as the Penguins' assistant coach.
The women's program became the first Horizon League squad other than UIC to win the conference title since 1996. At the Horizon League Championship, the Penguins knocked off Wright State, second-seed Milwaukee and top-seed Cleveland to claim the crown. YSU participated in the Charlottesville Regional against No. 3 seed Virginia. The Guins battled the Cavaliers before falling in the match. During the year, the Penguins defeated the Flames for the first time in school history.
Margarita Sadovnikova became the first player in the program's history to be a four-time first-team all-conference pick. Burak and Lackova was also a first-team honorees.
The men's team had a strong showing in the conference tournament. YSU defeated third-seed Wright State in the quarterfinals in a 4-3 thriller. The Guins won the doubles point and clinched the win when Rodrigo Campos won in three sets. In the semifinals against Cleveland State, YSU dropped a hard-fought 4-2 decision to the Vikings.
The women advanced to the Horizon League Championship match in 2013 for the second time in school history. Paula de Man was named the Horizon League's Player and Newcomer of the Year following a 23-1 campaign. Burak and Sadovnikova joined de Man on the Horizon League's all-conference first team. The trio combined to go 21-0 during league play and ended the year winning 42 consecutive matches. Burak's 28 wins for the season set the school mark for wins in a season while all three players won more than 20 matches.
The men finished third in the conference for the second straight year. YSU was led by first-team All-Horizon League pick Mistreanu and the conference's Newcomer of the Year, Sebastian Hagn. The Penguins picked up their first win over UIC since joining the league and won at Wright State for the first time in nearly 30 years. The Guins defeated the Flames 4-3 in the Horizon League tournament, just the program's second postseason dual win since joining the conference.
Previously he was at Gonzaga where he was an assistant with the men's program for two years and women's team for one campaign.
A native of Paris, France, Sopel has also served as an assistant coach at the Jean-Marie Castera Academy - Vieux-Bouco in France and as an intern in the French Federation, working with a number of France's top level tennis players.
Sopel was a two-time NAIA Academic All-American in tennis and cross country at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho. He was a member of two cross country teams that advanced to the NAIA National Championships and also played for LCSC's tennis team that advanced to the NAIA Tennis Championships in 2008.
The bilingual Sopel, who is fluent in both English and in French, earned his bachelor of arts degree in business administration from LCSC in May, 2009. Sopel received his MBA from Gonzaga in 2012.
His sister, Myriam, was a tennis standout at Indiana. Over the summer, the Sopel's run the Odyessy Tennis Academy in the south of France. For more information, visit www.odysseytennis.com