Kristen Ortman, 28, is the new Women’s Tennis Coach at State University at Buffalo. She is taking over for Kathy Twist, former head women’s tennis coach, who has assumed the dual roles of Senior Woman Administrator and Senior Associate Athletic Director for Sports Performance at the university.
What is it like to follow in the footsteps of a living legend like Twist?
“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 tennis coach with the women’s tennis team. 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 started teaching tennis at the age of sixteen at Amherst Hills, now the Miller Tennis Center, where she taught for eight years, and 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 greatly enjoyed. An outstanding student at Amherst High School and at UB, where she was Phi Beta Kappa, she greatly enjoyed working with Twist and the scheduling, details, recruiting, academics, and helping members of the tennis team with their individual games.
Ortman is extremely detail oriented and strives to make a great experience for the team members. She has seven international players and one local player on the team.
Team members are as follows: Tanvi Shah - India, Miranda Podlas - Williamsville, NY., Anamaria Candanoza - Colombia, Tamara Markovic - Serbia, Maria Stoyanova - Bulgaria, Shir Anaron - Israel, Laura Fernandez - Spain, Gopika Kapoor - India.
The team is presently practicing at Miller Tennis Center for the upcoming tennis season and their schedule is a grueling one. At 6:30 a.m., Monday-Saturday, Ortman picks up all of the women at UB. They then go to Miller and practice from 7-9 a.m. The practice session is used to determine a final lineup and consists of working on singles, doubles, and specific things that 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 conference play starts in the Mid American Conference in which UB is a member practice is five days a week Monday-Friday. Most matches are on Saturday and Ortman picks up the team members at 10 a.m. at UB. They arrive at Miller about 10:15 and have a pre match meal from 10:30 -11 a.m. They then have a team meeting and go over strategy for playing the match from 11-12 o’clock. From 12-1 the team practices and actual play against their opponent starts at 1 p.m.
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, the final match score will wind up 7-0, 6-1, 5-2, or 4-3.
“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 of tennis came at the early 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 tennis tournaments and moved up to the 16 & Under and 18 & Under divisions. She achieved a ranking of six in both divisions in the Eastern tennis rankings. In addition to teaching Amherst Hills, now Miller Tennis Center, she also taught at other clubs, and is presently the head tennis pro at Park Country Club during the summer.
At Amherst High School she had a legendary tennis career.From the time she started playing on the Amherst High team in eighth grade she went undefeated five years in a row in league play, compiling a scintillating 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 New York State High School Singles Championships her senior year. She also starred at UB, compiling one of the best won-lost records in the history of the university. She still plays USTA League tennis and was on a USTA team that placed 3rd in the 5.0 doubles competition in the USTA Nationals in 2011.
“I very much look 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. She is the kind of a coach who knows how to motivate the players and greatly respects each player for the individual person that they are.”