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It’s not every day you get to sit in a room and hear 3 current (and 1 former) college coaches discuss recruiting and what they look for in a prospective student-athlete!
Last week during the WTCA Conference, I had just such an opportunity. The COO of the ITA, Erica Perkins Jasper, led an incredible conversation with Mark Beyers (University of Mississippi), Lauren Embree (Pepperdine), and Lauren Spencer (Auburn) about coaching Women’s College Tennis, how the landscape is changing, and what junior players and their parents can do to best-position themselves to make good decisions when choosing a school.
Not only is Erica a former college coach, but she was also the Senior Manager of Junior & Collegiate Competition and oversaw a majority of the USTA’s College Tennis Programming. It was in her role with the USTA Collegiate Tennis department where my son and I first met Erica during the NCAA Championships. She has been an invaluable resource to my family and to ParentingAces over the years. She coached at Georgia Southern (2002-04), William & Mary (2004-06), Michigan State (2006-08), and New Mexico (2012-2015). Known for her ability to turn programs around, her last coaching stop at the University of New Mexico was probably her most significant. Jasper inherited a program that in the previous 3 seasons had only 2 total conference wins, 0 conference tournament wins. In just three years the Lobos won the 2015 Mountain West Conference Tournament Championship for the first time in school history, advanced to the NCAA Championships for the first time since 2006, and finished with an ITA National Ranking of #59.
The three coaches on the panel are super impressive as well.
Lauren Embree is a recent graduate of the University of Florida and was hired as the Pepperdine Women’s Assistant Coach in 2017. She was a five-time ITA All-American with the Gators, helping the team earn back-to-back NCAA Championship crowns in 2011 and 2012. In each of the title-matches, she clinched the dual-winning match for the Gators earning herself Most Valuable Player in the tournament as a result. She played No. 1 and No. 2 singles and doubles throughout her career, producing a 38-0 career record among Southeastern Conference (SEC) competition. Before reaching the collegiate playing ranks, Embree competed in the ITF juniors circuit in tournaments including the French Open and French Open juniors, Australian Open juniors and US Open Juniors. She won the 2008 Eddie Herr International Junior Championship and finished her juniors career ranked No. 6 in the world and ranked No. 1 in every age division in the United States.
During his first season (2002) at Ole Miss, Beyers guided the Lady Rebels to their seventh consecutive NCAA appearance and a final national ranking of No. 35. No stranger to women’s tennis, Beyers, a native of Tilburg, Holland, spent three years (1992-95) as head coach of the women’s tennis team at Armstrong Atlantic State in Georgia. Beyers earned PBC Coach-of-the-Year honors in 1993, 1994 and 1995. In 1995, he received NCAA Division II South Regional Coach-of-the-Year honors. His teams ranked 10th, ninth and first respectively in the Division II national rankings. During his 25 years of coaching collegiate tennis as an assistant and head coach, Beyers has coached 25 All-Americans, 47 ITA Scholar-Athletes and 20 teams that have received the ITA All-Academic Team Award.
Lauren Spencer is in her eighth season at the helm of the Auburn women’s tennis program after being named head coach on Oct. 6, 2011. Spencer, the all-time winningest coach in school history, surpassed 200 career wins and 100 wins at Auburn in 2017 and now holds a 234-106 overall record (129-77 at Auburn). A four-year letter-winner at Louisiana Tech from 1999-2003, Spencer (formerly Longbothom) was the team captain for two years. Spencer was a mainstay in the Louisiana Tech lineup both in singles and doubles play and was named the team’s Singles Player of the Year in 2000. Prior to her appointment at Auburn, Spencer spent the previous five seasons as head coach at Southern Methodist University where she led the program to a NCAA Sweet 16 in 2011 and the program’s first-ever Conference USA Tournament championship in 2009. Before arriving to SMU, Spencer spent a semester as a volunteer assistant coach for her alma mater, Louisiana Tech.