Alabama Women's Tennis Coach Jenny Mainz Not Wasting Any Time During Pandemic
University of Alabama women's tennis coach Jenny Mainz will be entering her 24th season at the Capstone this fall and she has seen just about everything in her career.
The 2020-2021 campaign will be her 30th overall in college tennis and as an assistant at Florida State in 1995, she witnessed the from afar the Oklahoma City bombings, then just three years after arriving in Tuscaloosa, 9/11 happened, and then, in 2011, there were the deadly April 27th tornadoes that wreaked havoc across the state.
But a global pandemic is not like anything else.
"It has been an unusual series of events," Mainz said. "I feel like I have seen a lot in my time. There are different things that have occurred from national tragedies to things locally that have been devastating, but this has been, I do not know of any other way to explain it, but just crazy."
For the Crimson Tide squad that had its spring season shortened due to COVID-19, the group held an overall record of 12-6, but was winless in SEC play. Three of the four conference matches came within two sets or less.
"I felt like we were evolving and our best tennis was in front of us," Mainz said. "On paper, it did not look like we had fared well in conference play, but some of those could have went either way. I felt optimistic and, obviously, it is unfinished now, but I think the seniors that are coming back feel like they have a lot to prove. We did not get a chance to show that we were going to turn things around.
"Within the team, we felt we were going to turn that corner, and we were really close to doing that."
Two of the four seniors returning for an extra year of eligibility are Alba Cortina Pou, who won the SEC's Women's Tennis Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award, and Ann Selim. The two departures include Luca Fabian and Jacqueline Pelletier, who both were ready for the next chapter of their lives according to Mainz.
Since the end of the season up until now, Mainz says she has been in touch with her players on an almost daily basis through either text messaging, Zoom, or FaceTime. Many of her players are from the international ranks like Moka Ito from Japan, Cortina Pou and Ares Teixido from Spain, and Selim from Egypt, so she resorts to more individual communication with each of them.
Mainz and one of her assistants, Keith Swindoll, has been able to send each player videos from the season in order to analyze what went right and what did not. Through it all, Mainz has been pleased with how her team has adapted to their new normal.
"First, our thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by this virus," Mainz said. "There is always going to be positive things you can take out of it. Our team has handled everything really well and I am proud of them for the way they have responded.
"They all realized this is a terrible virus and that is has affected so many people. They know it is not all about them. They handled it with a lot of maturity and poise. They all have a good, healthy perspective on it."
To fill the two empty spots on the roster, Mainz has added Clemson transfer Sydney Riley and freshman Anna Parkhomenko to her 2020 signing class.
"Sydney is coming from one of the best women's tennis conferences in the nation," Mainz said. "She is battle tested. She brings a wealth of experience to our team. She is a very mature individual and comes from a great family. We are so excited for her to be joining us."
Parkhomenko is a Sumy, Ukraine native, who was the country's national champion in U-18 singles and doubles in 2018. She also won a back-to-back national championship in singles in 2019.
"She is a work horse," Mainz said. "She is highly-motivated and trains very hard. During this pandemic, she has been training like a beast. She comes from a background where she is just intrinsically motivated and has worked for everything she has gotten, like everyone else on our team. We are just so excited about the balance of younger and older players we have next season."
Overall, Mainz has not wasted her time away from what would have been a normal season. Her days are filled with recruiting prospects around the globe, webinars with USTA, finding new ways to lead a program, and planning for the future.
On the other hand, her players are starting to see their way back to the tennis courts for workouts thanks to the re-opening of many countries across the world. She ultimately believes the work done now will propel her program back near the top of the SEC standings a year from now.
"There is always positive and good things that can come out of uncertain, challenging times," Mainz said. "This has been a good time to reflect and look back on what we can do better and I believe we have made the most of it so far."