By Andrew Kriz
The tradition continues.
New head coach Andrew Gibbs led both the men and women’s tennis teams to wins in their first matches over Cornerstone University (Mich.) on Sept. 7. Gibbs took over the highly successful tennis programs this year after working four years as an assistant.
Gibbs played for ONU from 1996 to 2000 during which time he was a two-time National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Scholar Athlete for the Tigers. He also taught tennis to younger players and was a part of the Olivet team that won the National Christian College Athletic Association National Championship in 1998.
After graduation, Gibbs went to coach at multiple high schools in the Midwest for six years before returning to Olivet in 2006 to teach and eventually help coach.
Players said they were supportive upon finding out Gibbs’ appointment as head coach.
“I was excited when I found out Gibbs was going to be my coach,” said junior captain Taylor Stephens “I had him as a professor and I had a lot of respect for him in the classroom.”
Now that he is in charge of the program, Gibbs hopes to continue the winning tradition the Tigers have on both the men’s and women’s teams dating back to Gibbs’ playing time and earlier.
“If you look at it, we have appeared in the NAIA National Tournament every year since ‘03 for the men and ‘01 for the women. I want to continue that and I believe we can. Our team is ready to go out and compete.”
The women’s team has had success since 2001, beginning a decade of appearances in the NAIA National tournament. The men’s team similarly has won three NAIA Regional Championships as well as made three National Tournament appearances since 2003.
Over the summer, the men kept five of their six starters from last year and added three freshmen and a junior transfer from University of Illinois Chicago to the team while the women received two new players – a sophomore and a junior from Union College, Ky.
Among those returning for the men include junior Julian Kurz and sophomore Landon Williams.
Kurz and Williams took second in doubles in the ITA Small Colleges National Tournament last fall, and this past spring, Kurz was named as an NAIA All-American Honorable Mention. The women return with several veterans including junior Ashlan Allison, who went 28-4 in singles and 22-9 in doubles last season. Allison also competed in the NAIA National Tournament.
In addition to their talent, Gibbs outlined three characteristics that define Tiger players.
“Being able to compete, doing well in your studies, and having the ability to respect and trust your teammates while holding them accountable when needed,” Gibbs said.
Taylor Stephens, one of the women’s team captains shared her coach’s philosophy.
“I would say last year’s performance was good and we accomplished a lot of our goals … This year we hope to go to Nationals again and make it past the first round again. We hope to make it even further in the NAIA Tournament.”