The Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) named LSU women's tennis co-Head Coaches Julia and Michael Sell the Division I coaches of the year in the southern region.
The Lady Tigers hosted an NCAA regional for the first time in program history in 2021. As the nation's No. 12 seed, a program high, the team swept Boston University in the first round, but fell short of the Sweet 16, losing a tight match to Michigan. They finished the season 15-6.
Senior Paris Corley made a deep run in the NCAA Singles Tournament. She became only the fourth Tiger to reach the quarterfinals, but fell short of the semifinals. Corley was named the ITA regional Senior Player of the Year, and she earned a spot on the ITA Singles All-American Team. She finished her season 22-5.
The ITA coaching award "honors a coach who has exhibited outstanding leadership in ways that contribute to on and off-court team performance."
USA Today reported in November that the two coaches received, doubted and ignored reports that two of their players were victims of domestic violence and rape in 2017 and 2018.
LSU hired the law firm Husch Blackwell to investigate those reports and, overall, LSU's Title IX system.
The firm did not refute USA Today’s reporting. A player named Abby Owens and her father reported to Julia Sell in April 2017 that Derrius Guice had raped her. The firm found that Julia Sell reported a vague complaint, which the university’s Title IX office never investigated.
In the conversation between the coach and the father, Owens' father said that Julia Sell responded, “I don’t believe her. She’s a liar.” Sell denied that statement to the firm, but Husch Blackwell found the father’s recollection to be credible, citing accounts of the father’s friends and witnesses of the conversation.
And in the case of ex-player Jade Lewis, investigators could not prove that her father ever explicitly reported to Michael Sell that wide receiver Drake Davis had assaulted her. But Lewis took issue with the firm's findings.
“There were many omissions and fabrications in the [Husch Blackwell] report,” Lewis testified in a legislative hearing on March 11.
In addition to a troubling history with Title IX cases, the LSU’s women tennis program has a worrisome team culture. Former players came forward to The Reveille in December to describe a “toxic” environment of lies, manipulation and division stemming from Julia Sell.
The Husch Blackwell report was released on March 5, 2021, 10 matches into the team's spring season. Ole Miss swept the Tigers in a match that evening.
"We couldn't be prouder of our girls," Michael Sell said after losing to Michigan. "They did everything we asked of them all year and they put themselves in the position to win, and that's all we could ask of them."