After nearly a quarter century, the love affair is over. Women’s tennis at University of Arizona is looking for a new suitor.
Vicky Maes, who began her legendary collegiate tennis career as a Wildcat in 1995 and has been the head women’s coach at her alma mater for the last 17 years, is stepping away from the Arizona job after a hall-of-fame career.
“The University of Arizona is a special place,” said the 1996 Pac-10 Player of the Year. “The opportunity to play and coach for this amazing institution has been one of the biggest honors of my life.”
That’s saying a lot from someone who was the nation’s top-ranked player for two years of her college career and was selected as the Women’s Sports Foundation College Athlete of the Year in 1996 and named to the Pac-10 All-Decade Team two years later. In 2003 she was inducted into the UofA Hall of Fame.
“For 24 years,” she added, “I have given my heart and soul to the tennis program and, in return, it has helped shape my values and who I am as a person.”
A national search for a new head coach began immediately after she made her decision to step away two weeks ago. The announcement came just two weeks after the Cats lost in the first round of the Pac-12 Championships to USC.
It will be hard to find a candidate who can bring the kind of appreciation for the sport and the school that Maes brought to the job. Not to mention her success at Arizona, where she led the Wildcats to eight NCAA Tournament appearances and produced four All-Americans and seven All-Conference honorees.
Maes was hired by Athletic Director Jim Livengood in 2001 and is now on her third AD. The job of finding her replacement falls to the current AD, Dave Heeke, who is just 15 months into the job after replacing Greg Byrne, who replaced Livengood.
Heeke provided the usual goodbye comments before turning his attention to the coaching search. “Vicky will always be one of the most accomplished student-athletes in the history of Arizona women’s tennis and we would like to thank her for her service to the university as our head coach,” he said in a statement.
When announcing her decision to step away from the program, Maes said, “It’s time for me to reassess and start a new chapter in my life.”
Disappointing results from her last couple of seasons could have factored into her reassessment. Last year’s squad finished the season 11-13 overall, with just two conference wins. This season, the Cats failed to win a single Pac-12 contest and posted a final 9-16 record.
It’s hard to tell whether Heeke gave her a little nudge toward the door.
While the AD conducts his search, the program has been turned over to assistant coach Andrew Veeder. A former player at Gardner-Webb University, Veeder joined the staff in 2016 after two years as an assistant at University of Central Florida.