When Jay Louderback took over as women's tennis head coach at Notre Dame in the fall of 1989, he inherited a program that had competed on the Division I level for just four years and had never participated in the NCAA tournament or earned a national ranking. As he enters his 25th season at the helm, Louderback has turned Notre Dame into one of the premier women's tennis programs in the nation.
The Irish have finished in the national top 30 in each of the last 22 seasons and have earned 21 berths to the NCAA Championships in that span. Notre Dame has captured 19 conference titles during Louderback's tenure and has reached the round of 16 or further in the NCAA tournament on nine occasions, including three appearances in the quarterfinals (1996, 2006, 2007) and two consecutive trips to the semifinals (2009, 2010). The Courtney Tennis Center also has served as host of the 1998 NCAA Championships, largely due to his efforts.
Louderback's players have enjoyed great success under his tutelage. Twenty-nine All-America awards have been given to a total of 12 different players, and four have garnered national awards from the ITA. In 24 years, 14 different Notre Dame players have garnered a total of 30 invitations to the NCAA Singles Championship and 11 different doubles squads have gained 18 berths into the NCAA Doubles Championship.
Louderback's players also have dominated University awards, winning the Francis Patrick O'Connor Award, given to one male and one female athlete each year who best embody the true spirit of Notre Dame, on seven occasions - more than any other sport. Louderback has had 12 winners of the Byron V. Kanaley Award, the most prestigious honor awarded to Notre Dame student-athletes, the most for any sport in the time since the Wichita State graduate arrived.
Another feature of Louderback's leadership is academic excellence. Since the ITA began awarding the All-Academic Team award to squads maintaining a 3.20 GPA for the year, the Irish have earned the distinction 16 times in 18 years. Only one Division I school, Western Michigan, has a better mark, as the Broncos have won the award all 17 years. In addition, Louderback's players have had a history of being named ITA Scholar- Athletes, which recognizes monogram winners who maintain a 3.50+ GPA for the year. He also has produced a trio of Academic All-Americans.
Louderback also has been decorated with 14 conference coach-of-the-year awards, and seven times he has been named Midwest Region Coach of the Year. He was awarded the Wilson/ ITA National Coach of the Year in 2006.
In 35 years of coaching, Louderback holds a 691-383 (.649) record, including a 646-352 (.647) mark coaching women's tennis. At Notre Dame, he is 487-207 (.705), making him the winningest coach in program history. After guiding Notre Dame to a 17-8 record during his first year with the Irish in 1990, Louderback led the Irish to their first-ever national ranking the following season, finishing the year at 23rd after a 16-9 campaign. In individual action, Melissa Harris advanced to the second round of the NCAA Singles Championship, becoming the first player in school history to accomplish the feat.
The remainder of the 1990's saw Louderback establish Notre Dame as a fixture among the nation's elite. After the honor of helping the program earn its first-ever national ranking in 1990, Louderback and the Irish proved it was not a flash in the pan, winning conference championships on nine occasions in the decade (six Midwestern Collegiate Conference and three BIG EAST) as well as earning a spot in the NCAA Championship on six occasions.
Seven times in the `90's Louderback's teams also found themselves ranked in the final ITA top 25 rankings, capped off by the `95-96 season where the team posted a record of 23-7 and advanced to the NCAA Quarterfinals for the first time in program history. That year's team also became the first under Louderback's tutelage to finish ranked in the top 10, completing the season as the sixth-best team nationally. In addition to his team's success during the `90's, several of Louderback's players were recognized for their excellent individual play on the court. A total of five Irish players (Wendy Crabtree, Lisa Tholen, Jennifer Hall, Tiffany Gates, Michelle Dasso) were tabbed as Division I All-Americans, while Crabtree and Hall also became the first Irish players to be recognized for their academics after being selected CoSIDA Academic All-Americans in `96 and `99, respectively.
Additionally, Hall became the first Irish player under Louderback to be touted as a Penn National Player to Watch in `96, while in that same season being named the first BIG EAST Championship Most Outstanding Performer.
The turn of the new millennium saw the Irish continue to make strides to become one of the elite women's programs in the nation.
The 2000 Irish delivered a second straight 23-7 season and advanced to the national site of the NCAA Championship for the first time since `96, finishing with a final ranking of 13th. On April 15, 2000, Louderback registered his 400th career win with a victory over Miami.
Louderback's teams continued their strong regular season performances, as the 2001 squad posted a 20-win season for the fourth consecutive year, with a 25-5 record. Ranked 10th in the final ITA poll, the Irish advanced to the NCAA round of 16 for the second consecutive year and were ranked as high as No. 5 during the regular season. Four-time All-American Dasso became the first Irish player to be named the ITA National Senior Player of the Year and qualified for the NCAA singles tournament for the fourth time. She capped off the best season for an Irish women's tennis player when she reached at least the semi- finals in three of the four ITA grand slam events. She became the first Notre Dame player to reach a grand slam final at the now-defunct National Clay Court Championships and made it to the semifinals of the NCAA Singles Championship.
After a top-25 season in `02, the Irish won another BIG EAST title in 2003 and finished 21st nationally. The `03 season saw Notre Dame knock off #14 VCU to snap the Rams' 38-match regular- season winning streak and 40-match home winning streak, while the Irish went on to finish 27th in the country.
The 2004-05 campaign was marked by the outstanding play of sophomore twins Catrina and Christian Thompson, who reached the title match of the Riviera/ITA All-American Championships and the semis of the ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships en route to being the first squad in Irish history to reach the national #1 ranking in doubles.
Despite a loss in the second round of the NCAA tournament, Notre Dame's appearance in the `05 event ensured that 20 consecutive classes, dating from 1990 through 2009, will have made at least one trip to the NCAA national event - a range of classes that includes every freshman since Louderback arrived at Notre Dame. In recognition of Louderback's effort and success, Notre Dame's Monogram Club bestowed upon him an honorary monogram in 1998. He joined an elite group of, at the time, six active Notre Dame head coaches to have been awarded an honorary monogram.
In 2006, Louderback and the Irish went 27-2 and climbed as high as No. 2 en route to the NCAA quarterfinals. The Irish finished the season fifth in the ITA Rankings. After finishing 24th in 2005, ND was 22nd in the pre- season before moving into the top five for good on Feb. 28.
The Irish finished 2007 with a 28-4 record and their second straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals. Twins Catrina and Christian Thompson earned All-America honors in doubles for the third straight year.
Louderback guided Notre Dame to a 22-9 record in 2008 and its 13th consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The Irish also captured their third BIG EAST title in four years. For his efforts, Louderback took home 2008 BIG EAST Coach-of-the-Year honors for the seventh time overall and second time in three seasons.
Brook Buck and Kelcy Tefft captured the program's second-ever title in an ITA national championship following their triumph at the ITA National Indoors in November. Buck and Tefft went on to earn All-America status and even reached the semifinals of the NCAA Doubles Championship - the furthest that any Notre Dame duo has advanced in the program's history.
The 2009 season saw the Irish make history when, for the first time in program history, the team advanced to the NCAA tournament semifinals. Notre Dame finished the year with a 28-5 record and ranked fifth in the final ITA poll. The Irish also won their second straight BIG EAST title and advanced to the ITA National Team Indoor semifinals.
Kelcy Tefft and Kristy Frilling opened the season as the nation's top-ranked doubles duo, before advancing to the second round of the NCAA Doubles Championship and earning All- America honors. Tefft was named the ITA National Player of the Year and the BIG EAST Player of the Year, while Frilling earned ITA National Player to Watch billing and BIG EAST Freshman of the Year honors.
The Irish matched `09's success, when in `10 Louderback and the Irish advanced to the NCAA tournament semifinals for the second year in a row. Notre Dame finished with a 26-4 record and ranked fifth in the final Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) poll. The Irish also won their third straight BIG EAST title with a 4-0 win over DePaul. Louderback's squad also earned a trip to the ITA Indoor Championship.
In 2011, Notre Dame reached postseason play for the 16th consecutive season, reaching the second round of the NCAA Championships after claiming its fourth straight BIG EAST Conference Crown. At the conclusion of the year, Notre Dame found itself ranked 20th in the nation after compiling a 17-10 record.
Frilling earned her second-straight distinction of BIG EAST Player of the Year, while Shannon Mathews was named the conference tournament's Most Outstanding Performer after earning the match-clinching point in each contest of the tournament. Frilling also made history, joining Dasso as the only two members of the Irish women's tennis team to be tabbed an ITA All-American on four occasions.
The success continued in 2012, as the Irish claimed their fifth consecutive BIG EAST Conference Championship and reached the second round of the NCAA Championships. Notre Dame posted a 21-8 team mark, including a perfect 5-0 in BIG EAST play. Mathews finished her Irish career by earning BIG EAST Player of the Year honors, as well as the distinction of being named ITA Midwest Region Senior of the Year. Frilling ended her decorated career with the third-most wins in program history (235), and was named to the All-BIG EAST Team for the fourth consecutive season. Frilling and Mathews also reached the No. 1 ranking in the ITA Doubles poll during the season, and were selected as ITA Doubles All-Americans.
During the 2014 season, Louderback led the Irish to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Championships after upsetting No. 16 Northwestern, 4-2. Sophomore Quinn Gleason earned a bid to the NCAA Singles Championships and advanced to the round of 32 and played in the Doubles Championship with senior Britney Sanders.
Prior to coming to Notre Dame, Louderback headed the men's and women's tennis programs at Iowa State for three years. He led the men's squad to a 45-33 mark and the women's team to a 37-51 record from 1986-89. In his final season with the Cyclones, Louderback's men's team finished fourth in the Big Eight, Iowa State's highest conference finish in 25 years.
Louderback began his coaching career at his alma mater, taking the helm of the Wichita State women's program in just its fifth year of competition. He guided the Shockers to a 122-94 record in seven years, including two Gateway Conference championships (1984 and 1986) and a Missouri Valley Conference title (1982). Five of his seven teams either won a conference championship or finished as runners-up. During his tenure, the Shockers won 14 or more matches each season while 10 of his players qualified for postseason competition. Two of his players qualified for the NCAA Championships in both the 1983-84 and 1984-85 seasons.
The 1980-81 Shockers set a school record with 21 wins, as the team earned its first postseason berth. The 21-win plateau was reached again the following season when Wichita State captured the MVC and Region IV championships. Louderback was voted 1982 Region IV Coach of the Year for his team's outstanding accomplishments. A native of Arkansas City, Kan., Louderback was an assistant tennis professional at the Riverside Tennis Center in Wichita, Kan., and head tennis professional at the Y Tennis Center in Battle Creek, Mich., before taking the coaching position at Wichita State.
Louderback, who earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from Wichita State in 1976, won a Missouri Valley Conference title at No. 3 singles during his senior year. For his efforts that season, Louderback was voted most valuable player by his teammates.
In April 2003, the Louderback family was honored by the USTA with the Tennis Family of the Year Award, presented to one family consisting of USTA members and volunteers who have excelled in advancing the USTA's mission to promote and grow the game of tennis both on and off the court. He and his wife, Denise, have one daughter, Bailey, who earned four monograms with the Irish tennis team and graduated in May 2008.
Jay Louderback: The Family That Plays Together, Stays Together