Preview: Women's Tennis NCAA Championship Round of 16
“The Capstone” is a nickname for The University of Alabama, but in its literal sense, it means the top stone or high point. For The University of Alabama’s women’s tennis team and head coach Jenny Mainz, it’s a guidepost for a program whose roots are grounded in a philosophy of building a program brick-by-brick over time with character, integrity, a strong work ethic, good sportsmanship and teamwork. A Capstone can never be placed on a foundation built on anything less, the way Coach Mainz sees it. Success is not defined by a single match, season, or team—but rather it is the cumulative body of work in the constant pursuit of excellence over time—inside the classroom, on the court, and in the community.
“I can’t imagine playing for any other coach in the country,” senior captain Maya Jansen said. “Jenny has created a true culture of winning and continues to put me and all of my teammates in countless positions to succeed.”
On the Court In 19 seasons leading the Crimson Tide women’s tennis team, Mainz has taken the program to heights never before seen in the program’s long and rich history. Mainz, the only coach in Alabama history to take the Tide to five consecutive NCAA Championships and 12 overall, has coached 12 teams that have finished in the top 40 in addition to 21 singles players and 15 doubles teams ranked in the final Intercollegiate Tennis Association polls.
Over her last five seasons, Mainz has coached the Crimson Tide to some truly great heights. In 2012, her doubles pairing of Alexa Guarachi and Mary Anne Daines reached the NCAA semifinals in doubles. Guarachi also reached the NCAA semifinals in singles in that same season. On May 25, 2015, reigning NCAA Doubles Champions, Maya Jansen and Erin Routliffe, stamped their names in the collegiate tennis record books, defeating Cal’s Klara Fabikova and Zsofi Susanyi by a final score of 6-2, 6-7(5), 6-3 to become just the third doubles team in the history of NCAA women’s tennis to win back-to-back national titles.
The Crimson Tide have been consistently ranked in the ITA’s top-10 rankings each of the past three seasons and continue to play elite-level tennis in the Southeastern Conference. In 2011, UA finished fourth in the conference and claimed the SEC Western Division title for the regular season. The Tide once again claimed the Western Division title in 2012, this time finishing second overall. For the 2013 season, Alabama was ranked fourth in the conference, but the Crimson Tide continued to build upon its success as the team entered 2014.
Mainz’s 2014 team made history, wrapping up the season as the sixth-ranked squad in the ITA rankings, which is the highest final ranking for the program. Alabama was ranked in the top-10 throughout the year, reaching a No. 2 ranking on May 1, the highest rank in the history of the program. The 2014 Crimson Tide women finished with just one loss in conference play and posted seven 4-0 sweeps throughout the season. But the most noteworthy accomplishment her team pulled off was capturing the program’s first Southeastern Conference Championship. With a 4-3, come-from-behind victory at eighth-ranked Georgia, Alabama clinched at least a part of the 2014 SEC title; that wasn’t enough for the Tide women. Alabama followed that up with a 4-0 sweep of Tennessee to claim the conference title outright on the final day of the regular season.
For a program that was 0-21 her first season to a conference champion, Mainz has surely transformed the women’s tennis program into a perennial power and one of the University’s most consistent teams.
In the Classroom As proud as she is of her team’s on-court success, Mainz is equally as proud of their academic success. The Alabama women have impressed in the classroom each year under her tutelage. Most recently, the team earned the highest grade point average by an Alabama women’s team following the conclusion of the 2013-14 season. In the past five seasons, the Tide women have laid claim to 30 ITA Scholar Athlete Awards, with five apiece coming in the first three campaigns and a program-best seven in 2015. The Crimson Tide’s efforts in the classroom are unmatched as the women continue to lay claim to the conference’s and NCAA’s most prestigious academic awards following each season.
In the last five years, at least one member of the UA women’s tennis team has been named to the CoSIDA/Capital One Academic All-America team, while the Tide has also claimed five consecutive SEC Scholar Athlete of the Year Awards for women’s tennis. Also, during three of those seasons, a member of the women’s team has claimed the NCAA Elite 89 Award, an honor that is presented to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative grade point average participating at the finals site for each of the NCAA’s 89 championships.
“Academic success is imperative. I have always stressed the importance of academics and I always tell my players that no one can ever take your education away from you. I hope to help produce student-athletes who are well equipped to make an impact beyond tennis,” says Mainz.
Being named to the CoSIDA/Capital One Academic All-America Women’s At-Large Team started following the 2010-11 season, when Courtney McLane claimed the honor for the Tide. McLane received the distinction a second consecutive year following the 2011-12 season as well. Following McLane’s graduation, Antonia Foehse picked up where McLane left off, being selected following the 2012-13 season. In 2014, Mary Anne Daines followed her ex-teammates in earning the honor once again for Alabama women’s tennis. Senior captain Emily Zabor earned the honor a season ago.
Zabor was also honored by the conference for her academic success, earning the Southeastern Conference Scholar Athlete of the Year award in 2015. The same progression the Crimson Tide saw with the CoSIDA/Capital One All-American awards continued on in the conference as well, as Zabor marked the third consecutive member of the Tide to win the award.
In order to help produce such well-rounded young women, Mainz preaches three core values to her players: having a blue-collar work ethic, striving for constant improvement and working together as a team.
“Jenny provides an unbelievable support system for her student-athletes both on and off the court,” said 2015 SEC Community Service Team member Natalia Maynetto. “Jenny is one of the most genuine people you’ll ever cross paths with and she truly wants what is best for those around her. Her priority to develop and maintain personal relationships with us helps us on the court, in the classroom and in the community.”
The Crimson Tide athletes under Mainz have seen a lot of success during their active time as an athlete with the team, but the women don’t stop their studies once their playing days are over. Alabama women have earned three NCAA postgraduate scholarships over the past four seasons. In 2012, Taylor Lindsey earned the honor for the Crimson Tide. She was followed up by Foehse in 2013 and Daines in 2014.
Although much of the successes of any athletic team are seen on the court, Mainz has produced well-rounded athletes that work just as hard away from the sport. Her women continue to exemplify exactly what it means to be a student-athlete at The University of Alabama.
In the Community In order to build the best possible persons, not just athletes, Mainz has placed a focus on community service and giving back to the Tuscaloosa area. Her athletes are not just stars on the court and in the classroom, but they are also champions of the University and make an impact on their community.
Every year, the women’s tennis team makes it a point to take advantage of every opportunity they have to help out those in need in Tuscaloosa and surrounding areas. In the past three years, the team has partnered with Habitat for Humanity to help build a house for a person in need. The team also takes part annually in the athletic department’s Halloween Extravaganza for local youth, as well as the Project AngelTree event, in which student-athletes help in making sure that children of incarcerated parents are provided presents each December holiday season.
For all their hard work on the court and in the community, Mainz and her team received a proclamation from Tuscaloosa Mayor Walter Maddox, making September 16, 2014 “University of Alabama Women’s Tennis Day”. The proclamation was given to the team in recognition of all that they have done in the past year, and to make sure that the community takes note of the accomplishments of the Alabama tennis program.
Mainz is actively involved in collegiate tennis on the national front, serving on the ITA’s Operating Committee since 2010, of which she is currently the Associate Chair. She also served as the chairperson for the ITA’s South Region for three years and assumed the same role for the newly formed Southern Region in 2010, a position which she still maintained through last season. Possibly her most prestigious work on the national front came in 2014, when the Alabama coach was selected as a member of the ITA Board of Directors.
Before Leading the Tide Mainz, once ranked in the top 10 nationally in doubles, was a three-year team captain for the University of Houston Cougars and a two-time All-Southwest Conference selection, garnering numerous accolades for her dedication to the game of tennis on the court. Off the court, however, is where she truly shined, earning CoSIDA GTE Academic All-America status and dean’s list honors while also being a member of the Omicron Delta Kappa Honor Society. Mainz graduated with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from Houston in 1991.