Vicksburg’s Coleman enjoys hall of fame nod
Published 11:00 am Monday, October 13, 2014
Jenny Coleman sat at a table, listening to her coach rattle off the accomplishments of her and her teammates.
As the numbers and honors — a 22-4 record, top-10 NCAA ranking, three nationally-ranked singles players, among others — scrolled by, the Vicksburg native finally came to a stunning realization.
They were pretty dang good.
Coleman and her teammates on Sewanee’s 1999 women’s tennis team were inducted to the school’s athletics hall of fame in September. Coleman said it was an honor that was as surprising as it was humbling.
“I don’t even think I told anybody when the coaches called and told me about the hall of fame. Then my parents found out and started telling everybody,” Coleman said with a laugh. “Once I got there, it was like, this is a pretty big deal.”
Coleman graduated from St. Aloysius and then went to Sewanee, where she starred in the NCAA Division III college ranks. She got as high as a No. 39 national ranking in her senior year, and helped Sewanee achieve even more as a team.
The Tigers had a 22-4 record in her senior season in 1999, with wins over five top-20 programs.
Sewanee finished the season with a No. 7 ranking, and its losses were to teams ranked Nos. 1, 2, 4 and 5.
“Our Nos. 1 through 3 players were all fairly comparable. To have that strength, and then a No. 4 girl who doesn’t lose a match, that’s a good team,” Coleman said.
More than a team, too, was the feeling of camraderie among the players. Coleman said coaches Conchie and John Shackelford treated their players like their own children.
“Absolutely it was a family,” Coleman said. “The coaches would have us over for dinner. They were like our parents. We ate together, played tennis together, did everything together.”
The 1999 Sewanee tennis team eventually drifted apart, as all teams do, and spread out across the country. Coleman ended up in Memphis, where she has a son and daughter and works as an attorney for Perkins and Marie Callender’s, LLC.
“That was the first time I’d seen a lot of those girls in about 15 years, was at the banquet,” Coleman said. “It was like no time had passed. I thought we were going to look older, and it was like, ‘No, we don’t look bad.’”
Coleman is still playing tennis, too. Now 37, she’s part of a United States Tennis Association squad in Memphis that won the city championship and competed in the state tournament in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, last weekend.
Although she’s on a good team now, few can compare to the one she played on 15 years ago.
“When the coach was talking about the accomplishments of the team and we’re sitting there listening to it all, we were like, ‘Wow, we weren’t bad,’” Coleman said with a laugh. “We went to nationals every year as a team. So while it was always an accomplishment, we just wanted to do better and better and get ranked higher and higher.”