University of Miami women’s tennis coach Paige Yaroshuk-Tews grew up fielding baseballs at Mark Light Stadium, hitting softballs at Miami Killian High, playing soccer on an all-boys youth team, shooting hoops outside her house and hitting so many buckets of tennis balls that the green fuzz wore out before she did.
Among scores of Hurricane memories, she watched Doug Flutie break her heart with that last-second touchdown bomb and angry Brian Bosworth’s Oklahoma lose to UM in back-to-back seasons — including for the 1987 national championship.
But for the past 15 years, Yaroshuk-Tews — one half of the only father-daughter duo in the UM Sports Hall of Fame — has carved her own legacy in Coral Gables, molding one of the finest women’s programs in the nation.
“A great season is great,’’ said Yaroshuk-Tews, 42, who played at UCLA but has coached only at Miami. “A great 10 seasons is what defines a program. We’re not just good. We’re ridiculously good.’’
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Of 317 NCAA Division I women’s tennis teams, Miami is one of only four that has advanced to the Sweet 16 of the national tournament at least 10 consecutive times. The others: No. 1 Florida, No. 15 Stanford and No. 27 UCLA.
This weekend, for the 12th year in a row, the seventh-ranked Hurricanes will host the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament at the Neil Schiff Tennis Center on campus. The top-seeded Canes (19-5, 12-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) open at 2 p.m. Friday against No. 4 regional seed Quinnipiac (15-10, 7-0 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference), with No. 2 regional seed Wichita State (27-3, 7-0 Missouri Valley Conference) facing No. 3 TCU (15-6, 6-3 Big 12) at 11 a.m.
“We respect every single team we play,’’ said Yaroshuk-Tews, whose 74-year-old father, Ernie Yaroshuk, was an infielder for the late, legendary UM baseball coach Ron Fraser, before Yaroshuk was drafted by the Phillies. “But it’s tournament time. We need to focus on ourselves.”
Yaroshuk-Tews (304-89 all-time) has mentored and coached several All-Americans, including two this year ranked in the top-10 — No. 8 Sinead Lohan of Ireland and No. 9 Stephanie Wagner of Germany. UM senior Wagner and sophomore Wendy Zhang are ranked 12th in the nation in doubles.
Wagner (132-42), who lost in last year’s NCAA individual national tournament semifinal, needs one victory to tie former All-American Bianca Eichkorn’s UM career record of 133 wins. Lohan, a sophomore who fell in a quarterfinal in last year’s national tournament, is 72-14 in two seasons, and could break multiple records by the end of her college career.
Both say it’s Yaroshuk-Tews, who Monday was named the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s Southeast Region Coach of the Year for the second time in four seasons, who has made the biggest difference in their development on and off the court.
“She’s just so resilient,’’ said Lohan of her coach. “She makes sure everyone is on the train, that no one is mentally checked out. She tells us exactly what we need to do to be successful, and believes we can get through any tough situation — in tennis or life.
“It’s incredible. Paige tells you one thing to do, one thing not to do, and you’re suddenly winning every point.’’
Said Wagner: “Paige is tough, but she wants to make us better and knows exactly how to do it. She’s always believing, always on top of us in every aspect of our lives. Her caring as a coach is unbelievable.”
Zhang described her coach as “honest and straight forward.’’
“She says a lot of truthful stuff that we’ve never heard before,’’ Zhang said. “Sometimes it’s about your emotions, sometimes it’s your attitude, sometimes it’s tactical. We listen, we take it in, accept it, make changes and get better.’’
Yaroshuk-Tews, mother to Emma, 10, and Landon, 7, in essence is as much a life coach as a tennis instructor. She insists it’s her players who are “truly amazing off the court — and on it, too.’’
“We always bring in really good players,’’ she said. “But it’s the first time they’re in college, on their own, making decisions without mommy and daddy. How do you keep consistency? You help them make good decisions so that when they come together as a team on the court, they’re more disciplined.
“You treat them like adults because they are adults.’’
U.S. Davis Cup coach Jay Berger, a former ATP Tour player and former UM men’s and women’s tennis coach who grew up in Plantation and heads men’s tennis for the USTA’s player development program, mentored Yaroshuk-Tews when she was a volunteer assistant at UM. He said he knew she was gifted from the beginning.
“She’s had incredible consistency in the top echelon of college tennis,’’ Berger said Tuesday. “She holds her players — and herself — extremely accountable both on and off the court.
“I recommended Paige get the job she has now. She’s Miami through and through, and you couldn’t find a more diehard Cane.’’
Ernie Yaroshuk said he “still gets emotional’’ when he thinks about being in the UM Hall of Fame with his daughter. He describes her as a disciplinarian with a loving touch, someone who knows how to communicate and is extremely proud of the university.
“Tough doesn’t mean that you’re mean or you’re old fashioned,’’ he said. “It just means you care.”
Said Yaroshuk-Tews of her 2016 players, which, behind Wagner and Lohan, include Zang, sophomore Silvia Fuentes, freshman Clara Tanielian and freshman Ana Madcur: “They’re tough, not super sensitive, and they really absorb the information in front of them. We work hard of course. But there’s nothing better than working hard and also having fun.
“If we focus on ourselves, we should have a very successful tournament.’’