Major deemed top coach
November 1, 2010 —
SVSU had its most successful season since coach Mike Major took over the reigns in 2003.
And coaches across the GLIAC took notice, honoring Major as the GLIAC “Coach of the Year” as well as naming sophomore No. 1 single player Yunjiao Shangguan a GLIAC First Team selection. Freshman Andrea Calhoun and senior Cortney Heileman were Honorable Mention selections.
“The awards are a real testament to how the team came together and continued to grow as the season went on,” Major said.
Despite becoming the first SVSU coach to earn the award since Jim Teal in 1999, Major passed the credit onto his players
“It was a real emotional moment for me because it’s voted on by the GLIAC coaches,” Major said. “It’s as much an award to the players for their ability to respond to my coaching.”
With six freshmen, three sophomores, and one senior, the goals coming into the season were to compete at a high level and get accustomed to playing at the collegiate level. After finishing 5-9 overall and 4-7 in the GLIAC, good for seventh place, Major said the Cardinals exceeded their goals.
“It was just a fantastic season,” he said. “We accomplished all our goals and more.”
The Cardinals dropped three of their first four matches and had a stretch during the middle of the season that saw them lose three in a row. Heileman provided the leadership necessary to ensure nobody lost hope.
“She kept everyone’s spirits up and kept the team ready to come to practice and learn,” Major said. “With our young team, her leadership was big.”
With Heileman’s leadership, along with the presence of Shangguan at pratice, it was no surprise to Major that the Cardinals improved during the year.
“When you have a competitive No. 1 singles player like Shangguan, it helps the rest of the team because they can practice with her,” he said.
In their first home match of the season, the Cardinals hosted Tiffin. Not only did SVSU pick up its first win of the season at 6-3, it also opened its brand new tennis facility, one that Major said is one of the best in Division II.
“When I first came here, we didn’t even have our own locker rooms,” he said. “We’ve made some major improvements as far as getting out own locker rooms as well as new equipment and now the new court.
“We’ve really set things up to have a firstclass program.”
One of the most memorable events occurred during the GLIAC tournament where the Cardinals were the talk of the tournament for the way they were performing two hours into the competition. Playing No. 2 seed Northwood, who lost in the Elite 8 last season in the NCAA tournament, the Cardinals led 2-1 after doubles and jumped out to early leads in the singles competition.
“Everybody was talking about SVSU,” Major said. “It was a great feeling to be in that position.”
Northwood ended up defeating the Cardinals 5-2. SVSU lost 5-3 to Michigan Tech on the second day before ending the season with a win on the third day, 5-1 against Lake Superior State.
“Over the course of the tournament, we were on the court more than any other team going into the last day,” Major said. “For us to come out and play the way we did, it’s a real testament to how competitive we are.”
With Heileman being the only player with no eligibility remaining, there’s no telling how far the Cardinals will soar in the coming years.
“These are first class kids not only on the court but off the court as well,” Major said. “The future is incredibly bright for SVSU tennis.”