Skyhawk Women's Tennis | Dennis Taylor - Head Coach
Seven-time Ohio Valley Conference Coach of the Year Dennis Taylor enters his 31st season as head coach of the University of Tennessee at Martin program in the 2017-18 season.
Last season, the Skyhawks posted a 12-5 record with an 8-1 OVC mark. UT Martin emerged victorious in 11 consecutive matches from March 4 through April 7 (the second longest winning streak in school history) and finished second in the OVC regular season standings.
The Skyhawks boasted three players in the ITA's end-of-season rankings in the Ohio Valley Regional in 2016-17. Sarah Candeloro (No. 18 singles), Burcu Tari and Andrea Plantada (No. 10 singles) were each spotlighted as the top performers in the Ohio Valley Regional, which is made up of 27 universities.
The 2017 senior class was arguably the best in program history under Taylor. The trio of Candeloro, Tari and Hitomi Naito combined for eight All-OVC selections and 464 combined victories. Candeloro was one of only seven Division-I Academic All-Americans for the sport of tennis in 2016-17.
In 2016, Taylor became just the seventh active NCAA Division-I head tennis coach to reach 500 career victories. His seven OVC Coach of the Year awards are the most in OVC women's tennis history.
Since his first season in 1987, Taylor has made improvements to all areas of the Skyhawk tennis program and established of the most consistent programs in the OVC. In 25 seasons as a member of the OVC, Taylor has lead the program to 24 tournament appearances and brought home six OVC championships overall. 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.
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.
UT Martin won yet another OVC title in 2015-16, going 9-1 in league play before falling in the conference championship match. The Skyhawks gelled at the end of March, reeling off eight consecutive victories from March 29 through April 23.
In his 30 seasons, Taylor has amassed a 524-469 (.528) won-loss record that includes both his men's and women's teams. He has coached eight All-Americans in his Skyhawk tenure.
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 73 All-Conference players. Also during his tenure, Taylor has had three players garner OVC Freshmen of the Year awards (Sara Leavy-2006, Jodie Tiley-2009, Hitomi Naito-2014).
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 2014, the OVC champion Skyhawks received national recognition by NCAA, with the team having all eight players with a 3.5 GPA or above.
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:
Jessica Silva, Skyhawk tennis alum (2012-2015): "Coach Taylor cares for each and every one of his players and not just the tennis aspect and makes you a better person. He stresses what comes after tennis but also provides incite with his experience as a coach to succeed on the court as well."
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."