A Family's Fortune
March 19, 2007
The tennis program that coach Lin Loring has developed at Indiana University is truly one of the greatest dynasties the Big Ten has seen in its 25 years of women's athletics. When looking through its history, one can see how the program has evolved, but it is the growth of the Hoosier family that continues to raise the bar of tennis superiority.
Indiana's tradition of excellence began in 1980 when the Hoosiers won their first of 15 conference titles over 19 seasons under Loring's training. This was before the NCAA even sponsored a championship for the sport.
In those days it was Kelly Ferguson and Bev Ramser that planted the seed. They were the first Hoosiers to earn All-American honors in 1979. Just two seasons later Heather Crowe and Tina McCall added their names to the list, increasing the recognition of the up-and-coming Indiana program. Since then, a total of 24 team members have been named All-Americans in either singles or doubles play.
Prior to the NCAA's addition of the tennis championship, the Hoosiers claimed the first women's national championship in Indiana history under the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) in 1982. That same year Crowe won the AIAW singles crown, the team also won the Big Ten crown, and Loring was named the Big Ten, Midwest and National Coach of the Year.
These coaching honors were just the start of Loring's recognition. He has been named Big Ten Coach of the Year on four occasions (1982, 1988, 1992, 1995), Midwest Coach of the Year seven times (1981, 1982, 1989, 1991, 1992, 1995 and 2004) and National Coach of the Year twice (1982, 1992).
While the first championship came in 1982, the streak of excellence was the extending branch of nine consecutive Big Ten Championships won from 1987-1996. The reign started in 1987 with All-Americans Janet McCutcheon and Kelly Mulvihill. The following year, Mulvihill became the first Hoosier to boast two straight Big Ten Player of the Year awards. The honor has been won by an Indiana athlete on seven occasions since the award's inception in 1988.
Another milestone came in 1989 when teammate Stephanie Reece became the first Hoosier to be named Big Ten Freshman of the Year. She was the first of three straight honorees from the IU program as Deb Edelman was credited in 1990 and Jody Yin in 1991.
Edelman and Reece became the successors to Mulvihill, claiming the Big Ten Player of the year honors in 1990 and 1991, respectively, before sharing it in 1992. During this time an Indiana athlete either won or shared the honor for five consecutive seasons- a record feat. The teammates' supremacy also boasts multiple All-American honors with the pair combining for nine of the awards while teammate Rachel Epstein claimed the honor in 1993. In the history of the program, Indiana has had 24 All-Americans in both singles and doubles play.
Another record held by the Hoosiers is one claimed off of the tennis courts. Indiana has produced a conference-best 86 Academic All-Big Ten selections in the past 29 years.
"You try hard not to be happy where you are," said Loring. "The game and players are always changing."
To keep his players on top of their game, Loring attends conventions and workshops, reads books and magazines, and always looks for new ideas, drills and training techniques. He also credits the consistency of his coaching staff and administration and the lack of turnover. Loring is in his 30th year as head coach for the Hoosiers and puts a great deal of his recruiting focus on his student-athletes completing their degrees while at Indiana.
"I want the girls to graduate and I want them to be the best tennis players they can be," said Loring. "I fully realize that tennis is only part of their college experience and their time is precious."
This is part of what makes Loring such a success. Not to mention his record that places him atop the NCAA women's coaches all-time career win list starting the 2006-07 season at 677-241. According to current senior Laura McGaffigan, there are multiple other reasons for his dominance in the sport.
"First of all, he is very knowledgeable about tennis, especially concerning fundamentals and strategy," reports McGaffigan. "Second, he is very organized. Our practices are very structured, making them very productive. Third, he is demanding yet very positive. He makes us believe we can compete with anyone."
The strength of Loring's coaching abilities is what can be credited for the successful timeline that continues to stretch through the program's existence.
McGaffigan is a current team member that has her own extension in the family tree of tennis success. Not only did both of her parents play tennis in college, but her sisters did as well and also in the Big Ten Conference.
"When I saw how much my older sister Jenny enjoyed competing for Illinois, and how much Katie enjoyed competing for Wisconsin, I knew it was something I also wanted to do," said McGaffigan. "I chose Indiana because of its strong tennis program and the highly regarded Kelley School of Business."
Her desire for not only tennis, but also education is what led to her recruitment by Loring.
"To play for Indiana, you have to want to improve and you have to want to graduate," said Loring. "Laura has gotten better in college and is just a really great person that comes from a great family."
She not only comes from a great family, but is part of one at Indiana as well.
"The student-athletes that have played tennis for Indiana know they are part of a family," Loring said.
Loring also notes that he keeps in touch with the program's alumni through newsletters and occasional reunions. He even keeps a bulletin board filled with pictures of his former players over the years and their new families.
The Hoosier tennis family has appeared in 24 national championships. On 39 occasions an Indiana athlete has competed in the NCAA singles tournament and 21 teams have competed in NCAA doubles play. As the team closes in on the post-season, it is currently second in the Big Ten and looking forward to writing yet another conference title season into the family history.