By Caitlin Graveson '11
The Saint Mary's women's tennis team has been on the rise the past few seasons, reaching new levels of success by capturing the West Coast Conference championship last year, a first for the program. Much of that success can be attributed to head coach Lisa Alipaz. She has been named WCC Coach of the Year five times in her 12-year tenure at Saint Mary's. Alipaz has achieved all of this while balancing life with two young children.
Alipaz, however, is quick to point to her team members. "Success first starts with the players. Four years ago we were given a full allotment for scholarships. It has taken four years to get the right players in the right place."
Alipaz's players earned multiple All-WCC awards, including Catherine Isip, who was named WCC Freshman of the Year. Three other Gaels made the All-WCC teams.
Alipaz has had great success recruiting players to Saint Mary's. She says it's easier for her to sell a small, private school to international players. "Saint Mary's has a lot to offer, but getting Americans here has been difficult." Recent publicity, basketball and otherwise, has gotten the word out, however. "People have learned that there is a great place to go in Northern California, and it's not Cal or Stanford."
Alipaz's coaching strategy includes a concentrated effort to avoid the subject of winning. "We are focusing on improving daily and are not worried about putting wins on the board. This has allowed us to play freely and as well as we could."
Although tennis is an individual sport, and coaching is one-on-one, Alipaz has also built a team atmosphere. "We are much more of a team and we have worked hard to be a team."
Beyond the tennis courts, Alipaz is busy with son Will, 2 ½, and daughter Ali Marie, 4. Alipaz uses a similar team effort to help strike a balance. "It's a challenge every day. I would not be able to do it without a mom and dad who live nearby to help out and a super husband, who can help out and be there on the weekends."