The Post-Journal

Anne Tenney And Winning Tennis Are Synonymous At Southwestern

Despite 106 career wins and six championships in 10 years, it's hard to get Southwestern Girls Tennis Coach Anne Tenney to admit she might have had something to do with her team's success.

"I think it has a lot to do with the kids getting a strong interest in tennis at Southwestern when the teams started to win," Tenney said. "It kind of perpetuates itself. When the team started to win, the kids got interested. We try to instill a positive attitude."

The latest version of accentuating the positive won its fourth Chautauqua County Girls tennis League title in a row. In fact, the Lady Trojans have been undefeated since 1985, which translates into 32 wins in a row.

Tenney had much to do with forming the girls' league.

"I helped form the league in 1977," Tenney said. "Most of the girls that liked to play had to play on the boys team or didn't get to play against each other. So we formed the league with Maple Grove, Jamestown and Falconer, originally. It's nice because it gives the girls a chance to play. We've had a record of 106 wins and 19 losses since the league started."

Tenney started her tennis career on the clay courts at Allen Park. There, she got instruction and advice from some of the legendary names in Jamestown sports.

"I've been interested in tennis since I was a kid," she said. I used to go to Allen Park and get advice from Nelson Turnell, Len Johnson and Dick Hernan. We'd go down to the courts and they'd be playing. I'd just show up and play. They had clay courts then."

For all the success that she's had, Tenney says that she fell into coaching almost by accident.

"When you first go to a school, you want to get involved," she said. "The position for boys tennis coach opened up and I figured I knew how to play, so why not?"

That's right. Tenney has been coaching the boys' team since 1974. Her record for coaching the boys is 135-47 and five Division 1 titles, including four in a row from 1981-84. The fifth title came this past spring.

She also finds the time to be an instructor at the Chautauqua Health and Racquet Club and to be assistant director of the St. Bonaventure Tennis Camp each summer for the last nine years.

Debbie Rauh, Kim Watson, Adel Salvaggio and Jane Caldwell are some of the names that Tenney mentions when she thinks of individual players.

"They all came up through the ranks," she said. "I can't say that it has been individual players that led to the success, though. It has more to do with the depth we've had."

Depth is what has put the Southwestern team into the win column so often.

"We've won a total of six championships, with four coming in the last four years," Tenney said. "We won in 1980 and '82, and then in '84, '85, '86 and '87."

When it comes to putting a finger on the reason for the extraordinary number of wins, Tenney has no trouble knowing where it lies.

"We usually have been stronger in doubles play," she said. "I think that is due to the fact that I can coach that aspect better because I'm a doubles player myself. Tennis is really a team sport. Your team can't win if you only have one good player."

"In most of the meets, we won both of the doubles matches, and then only had to win one of the singles matches."

Tenney has had her share of troubled moments in her coaching career. The most recent one occurred when her top two doubles teams had to play each other for the final spot on the county sectional team.

"It was difficult," Tenney said. "I hoped it wouldn't happen. We thought that the girl from Jamestown, Erin Eklum, was going to play singles. She was upset early in the tournament and then she combined with Kirsten Seleen and they formed a good team. They won the sectional qualifier. As it turned out, our two teams had to play each other for the third and last spot. In that situation, you can't coach. They took it well and just played. There were no hard feelings afterwards."

The team of Kristen Yahn and Sara Yahn ended up edging out Sharon Kim and Melissa Phillips for the third spot. During the season, the Yahn sisters were the No. 1 and No. 2 singles players.

Despite all the championships and sectional representatives, Tenney's crowning achievement seems to be the development of the girls' league.

"It's getting stronger each year," she said.

What is next for Tenney?

"I'd like to see a summer tournament program for the younger kids," she said. "Sort of a Grand Prix type of thing with a point system. There really isn't too much offered around here in the way of tournaments for the kids."

Tenney has this to add about tennis as a sport.

"It's really a great sport," she said. "It's a lifetime sport. I've seen people in their 70s playing. You can always find somebody on your level to play at your speed."

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