Kristen Ortman is the new interim women’s tennis coach at the University at Buffalo. She is taking over for Kathy Twist, who was promoted to Senior Associate Athletic Director for Sport Administration and Senior Woman Administrator.
The team opened its spring season Saturday with a 4-3 victory over Pittsburgh. Tanvi Shah and Miranda Podlas each won in singles and doubles.
What is it like to follow in the footsteps of such a respected coach, who headed the program for 16 years?
“Kathy has been a wonderful role model for me,” Ortman said. “She was my mentor and coach for four years when I played tennis as an undergraduate at UB. I also worked closely with her as a graduate assistant with the tennis team. For the past four years I have been an assistant. I know that I am following a great coach and person and I will strive my best to continue to uphold the legacy that she has made at UB.”
Ortman, 28, started teaching tennis at the age of 16 at Amherst Hills, now the Miller Tennis Center, and taught there for eight years. She was hooked on teaching from the start. After working closely with Twist as a graduate assistant she decided that the planning and organization that goes into being a head tennis coach was something that she enjoyed. An outstanding student at Amherst High School and at UB, where she was Phi Beta Kappa, she enjoyed working with Twist and dealing with the scheduling, details, recruiting, academics and helping members of the tennis team with their individual games.
Ortman is detail oriented and strives to make playing a great experience for the team members. The players are Shah (India), Podlas (Williamsville), Anamaria Candanoza (Columbia), Tamara Markovic (Serbia), Maria Stoyanova (Bulgaria), Shir Anaron (Israel), Laura Fernandez (Spain) and Gopika Kapoor (India).
The team is practicing at Miller Tennis Center for the coming season and its schedule is grueling. At 6:30 a.m., Monday-Saturday, Ortman picks up all of the players at the university. They go to Miller and practice from 7 to 9 a.m. The practice session is used to determine a final lineup and consists of working on singles, doubles, and specific things on which each player needs to improve. After that they go back to UB to work on fitness in the gym or in the weight room.
When Mid-American Conference play starts, practice is Monday through Friday. Most matches are played on Saturday at 1 p.m. They are preceded by a meal, a team meeting and an hour of practice.
There are three doubles matches that are played first and the team that wins two of the three doubles matches is awarded one point. Six singles matches are then played and each winner of these individual matches is awarded one point. Therefore, there are seven points available for each match.
“If we win we go over what we did well,” Ortman said. “If we lose we focus on what we need to work on for our next match.”
Ortman’s introduction to the game came at the age of seven. She was a member of the Buffalo Canoe Club in Canada and excelled in sailing, and was competing in regattas at the age of nine. She also started playing some tennis at the Canoe Club and started taking lessons at the Village Glen and later at Miller Tennis Center.
Almost from the start it was evident that she had outstanding skills as a tennis player.
She started playing 14-under tournaments and moved up to the 16-under and 18-under divisions. She achieved a ranking of sixth in the latter two divisions in the Eastern tennis rankings. In addition to teaching at the former Amherst Hills, she taught at other clubs and is presently the head pro at Park Country Club during the summer.
She played on the Amherst High School team for five years and went undefeated in league play, compiling a stellar record of 55-0.
What makes the record even more compelling is that she played first singles all five years. Her apex was finishing third in the NYSPHAA singles championships her senior year. She also starred at UB, compiling one of the best won-lost records in the history of the university, setting school records in singles (59) and doubles (59) victories. In her senior season, she won 19 matches in both singles and doubles. She still plays USTA League tennis and was on a USTA team that placed third in the 5.0 doubles competition in the USTA Nationals in 2011.
“I very much look forward to our upcoming season,” Ortman said. “I am extremely proud of the hard work that all team members have been putting in and of the team’s overall GPA average of 3.6 last semester, the highest of any sports team in the school’s history.”
Twist said, “First and foremost Kristen has great skills. She is a great teacher and really knows tennis.”