Talladega native leads Tulane tennis team to best record since Hurricane Katrina
by HEATHER BAGGETT
Terri Sisk gathers her tennis team into a huddle after practice.
NEW ORLEANS - When Talladega native Terri Sisk accepted the head coaching job for the women’s tennis team at Tulane University in 2007, she knew the road to success would not be an easy one.

The Green Wave athletics department was just beginning the process of fielding a lot of the sports that were cut while the city of New Orleans and the school recovered from the devastation created by Hurricane Katrina.

After five seasons as the head women’s tennis coach at Samford University, Sisk was ready for the challenge of rebuilding the program at Tulane.

“When we restarted the program four years ago, we knew it was going to be a very high mountain to climb,” Sisk said Friday. “The girls that I brought in, I told them the task was going to be difficult.”

Those recruits took the challenge as seriously as Sisk, and the results came sooner than expected.

Now, four years later, the Green Wave tennis team just completed its best season since Katrina. Sisk’s team was 5-1 against other Conference USA teams.

The Green Wave also recorded upsets against nationally ranked opponents Penn State and Ohio State.

Sisk said she didn’t know at the beginning of the season that this team would be so successful.

“I did know that this year was going to be special,” Sisk said. “It was exciting.”

Tulane finished the 2011-2012 season with a record of 19-6 and ranked 58th nationally.

That ranking is a source of pride for the Green Wave as it allows the team the opportunity to participate in prestigious, invitation-only tournaments next season.

The success of the past year is already paying dividends as Sisk has already signed several star athletes for next season.

Tulane’s athletic department recently announced the signing of three new freshmen who will join the Green Wave program for the 2012-2013 season.

One of those recruits, Ipek Birol, is the eighth-ranked player in her age group in Turkey. The other freshmen joining Birol are five-star recruit Jacqui Katz of New York and four-start recruit Meredith Maltby of Illinois.

“I am thrilled that Jacqui, Ipek and Meredith chose Tulane over several other very solid programs,” Sisk said in a release from the university. “Their stamp of approval definitely reiterates the direction we are moving and the caliber of student-athlete we are now attracting to our program.”

Friday marked another banner day for the Green Wave women’s tennis program as Sisk announced the signing of a transfer student from Clemson.

Klara Vyskocilova of the Czech Republic will come to Tulane as a junior after a successful tenure at Clemson.

The All-Atlantic Coast Conference standout recorded a 24-10 mark in singles play this past season.

“The addition of Klara is very big for our program,” Sisk said. “…She will definitely come in and make a huge impact in our line-up after playing on one of the biggest stages in collegiate tennis.”

The new players will help replace the four seniors from the 2011-2012 season.

“We’ve got four seniors we’re losing,” Sisk said. “Four seniors that had a really big part in our success.”

Looking ahead, Sisk said the Green Wave program will be more successful in 2012-2013 than this past year.

“I feel like next year we’ll be a top-40 program,” she said.

In addition to watching Tulane’s tennis program grow and succeed the past few seasons, Sisk has also had the opportunity to watch the city of New Orleans grow and rebuild after the hurricane of 2005.

She believes the rebuilding of athletics at Tulane has helped to bring people back to the Big Easy.

“After that horrible disaster, a lot of people were afraid of the city,” she said. “It (athletics at Tulane) brought kids from all over the world to the city. …It just ignites a new passion for the city.”

© 2012