Kari Miller brings the racket back, eyeing the ball coming towards her.
Kari Miller wins Big Ten athlete of the year. Jeremy Weine/Daily.  Buy this photo.

Coming off of a Big Ten Tournament victory, the Michigan women’s tennis team added another trophy to its case, this one courtesy of sophomore Kari Miller.

On Thursday, Miller took home the Big Ten athlete of the year award, the sixth in the Wolverine’s history. She’s the first Wolverine to take home the award since Kate Fahey’s back to back wins in 2018 and 2019.

Miller boasts a 26-9 overall record, going 15-3 in dual matches and 8-1 in conference play. As the No. 19 ranked player in the nation, she earned her second straight All-Big Ten selection.

“It’s really exciting,” Miller said. “I feel like it’s a nice way to cap off the season both as a team and individually. … Last year we lost in the finals to Ohio State, and this year it was great to come out on the other side, especially after missing out on a regular season championship.”

Miller played at the No. 1 singles spot for the Wolverines in all but one match this season. Her most recent 6-2 6-2 win over Ohio State’s No. 8 Irina Cantos Siemers was crucial in Michigan’s 4-0 sweep to take home the conference title. Miller also beat Cantos Siemers 3-6 6-1 6-3 in the finals of the ITA Midwest Regional Singles Championship in Columbus.

She began the fall season ranked No. 33 nationally and by the end of the year fought her way into the top 20, displaying the hard work and success she found this season.

“In terms of my progress during the year, I think I mostly tried to focus on the mental side of the game and approaching each match with the same mentality,” Miller said. “Since starting college tennis, I’ve definitely seen the most amount of improvement in my mental game.”

This isn’t the first time Miller has earned an NCAA singles championship berth. In her freshman season, she was the sole representative for the Wolverines with her bid. In that performance, Miller upset No. 13 Victoria Flores of Georgia Tech 6-4 6-4 in the first round before falling to No. 19 Georgia Drummy of Duke 6-2 6-4 in the second. With another year of experience under her belt, she looks to make a deeper run.

Miller and the rest of the team are heating up at just the right time. Many accolades have been collected in the past week, but the most important one is still up for grabs: the NCAA championship.