Skyhawk Women's Tennis | Dennis Taylor - Head Coach
Dennis Taylor enters his 28th season as head coach of the University of Tennessee at Martin NCAA Division-I tennis program in 2014.
Since his first season in 1987, Taylor has made improvements to all areas of the Skyhawk tennis program. He has improved the Skyhawk tennis facilities, upgraded the strength of the schedule and expanded his recruiting base in an effort to make UT Martin tennis an upper-echelon program. With the program's fifth Ohio Valley Conference championship in hand in 2011, the goal is to become a top nationally-ranked team over the next several seasons.
In the spring of 2013, Taylor oversaw a facility facelift, as the Skyhawks played all matches away from campus while the Skyhawk Varsity Courts were rebuilt. The result is one of the nicest tennis facilities in the Southeast, complete with brand new surfaced courts and a top-of-the-line lighting structure for the first time in program history.
During his tenure, Taylor's teams have faced some of the top teams in the nation and have been ranked among top teams nationally. He reaped the benefits of his hard work in 1991 with two NCAA Division II National Championships, in men's singles and doubles competition.
In 1994 and 1995, UT Martin's second and third years as members of Division I, Taylor led the women's team to back-to-back OVC titles. In 2005, Taylor guided the Skyhawk women to their third OVC championship and their first-ever berth in the NCAA Division I Tennis Regional. Taylor's women won the OVC again in 2006.
With that said, the 2011 season may have been Taylor's finest coaching job at UT Martin. Presiding over a roster that included seven players and only one upperclassman (a junior), he guided the Skyhawks to an 12-9 record (7-1 OVC) and an OVC Tournament championship appearance. After the youthful UT Martin squad sputtered to a 1-5 record, Taylor's veteran leadership helped produce 10 wins in 12 matches down the stretch.
In 2012, Taylor's Skyhawk squad was once again amongst the OVC's best, posting an 8-1 record to go along with an appearance in the OVC Tournament championship.
Taylor's guidance has helped create UT Martin into one of the upper-echelon squads in the Ohio Valley Conference. Since joining the league in 1993, the Skyhawks qualified for 20 consecutive OVC Tournaments from 1993 through 2012 and reached double-figure win totals 16 times in those 20 years. The team has also finished with a record of .500 or better in OVC play in 20 of the 21 years they have been members of the conference.
In his 26 seasons, Taylor has amassed a 480-433 (.526) won-loss record that includes both his men's and women's teams. He has coached eight All-Americans and been selected as the OVC's Coach of the Year six times (1994, 1995, 2005, 2006, 2009, 2011), the most of any active women's tennis coach in the league.
In 1995, one of Taylor's athletes, Caroline Groves, was named Tennessee's NCAA Female Athlete of the Year. Taylor has also coached four OVC Players of the Year, including Groves in 1995. Another of Taylor's OVC Players of the Year - Jodie Tiley - was named UT Martin's Bettye Giles Female Athlete of the Year in 2012. In total, Taylor has coached 67 All-Conference players.
As former members of Division II and the Gulf South Conference, Taylor's teams won three conference championships and Taylor was honored with three GSC Coach of the Year awards. The Skyhawk tennis motto, "a commitment to excellence," applies not only in competition, says Taylor, but in daily activities as well.
Off the court, Taylor's squads continually produce one of the highest grade point averages of any athletic program at UT Martin. Several of his players have been recognized by the school and the OVC for their classroom accomplishments, including Andrey Yesipov, who was named as one of only six OVC student-athletes to earn the All-OVC Scholar Athlete Award for his hard work in the classroom during the 2007-08 season. The OVC Scholar Award is the highest individual award an OVC student-athlete can receive. In 2011, the OVC champion Skyhawks received national recognition by the International Tennis Association, as seven UT Martin tennis players were named ITA Scholar Athletes. That list included Johanie Van Zyl, who CoSIDA Academic All-District second team accolades. Overall, the 2011 team boasted a 3.68 Grade Point Average for the academic year, with a 3.8 GPA in the spring.
The Skyhawks have also given back to the community in a big way the last several years. The team held a Pro-Am day in 2010, where they allowed members of the local tennis community to pair up and play against the current Skyhawk players. But the Skyhawks also have had their eyes on a much bigger prize. In three years, the team has raised nearly $9,000 and counting for a donation to benefit cancer research at the Ronald McDonald House in Memphis.
Taylor is married to the former Sandra Waggener and the couple has three grown sons, Chris, Joe and Ty.
What They Are Saying About Coach Taylor:
Phil Dane, UT Martin Director of Athletics: "Dennis Taylor epitomizes everything an athletic director desires in a coach. He recruits student-athletes who are committed to obtaining their degrees. He expects excellence in the classroom and on the court. And he demands that his team members represent our program with the highest integrity in the community. I've never had a student-athlete complain about Coach Taylor's philosophy toward coaching. It's no wonder that his teams have won championships during his tenure at UT Martin."
Jeanne de Wet, Skyhawk tennis alum (2003-06): "I have never laughed as loud, cried as hard, been as tired, been as excited, felt more camaraderie, felt more shared passion, and never felt stronger than the days I spent playing for the Skyhawks. It's an experience I wouldn't trade for any treasure in the world. Coach Taylor always told us, 'The next four years will be the best years of your lives' and I thought - no way, can't be. What an idiot I was for not believing him because they were the best - hands down. Coach didn't just prepare us physically for the game on the court, but mentally for the game of life and trust me - we have such an advantage out there in the real world today. Coach wasn't just your average coach, he played the role of a father, a friend, and a mentor in my life."
Ana Bakran, Skyhawk tennis alum (2001-04): "Coming to UT Martin to play tennis meant the opportunity to improve my future. Coach Taylor taught us discipline and what a commitment to excellence really means. Coach always strived to surround us with positive, good people and made us aware of the impact we all can have on the world. Thanks to Coach, the UT Martin tennis program wasn't just about tennis - it was about making us kids better people. My kids will be the evidence of his good work."
Gayatri Ramesh, Skyhawk tennis alum (2002-05): "It was at UT Martin that I found some of my best friends...the list goes on and on. Since I am a single child, some of these girls are like sisters to me and Coach Taylor is like a second dad. His heart is in the right place and he always was there for me and still is. Not a single one of my top memories are on the tennis court. Although I will never forget us winning the conference, it is the people that make the team what it is. If I were back in Martin I would say hi to at least five people before their morning class. I can go on and on about all the people that I met through UT Martin tennis and how much it has influenced my life."