As the clock winds down on her highly successful 35-year run as the girls tennis coach at Oregon Episcopal, Coleen Davis is reflecting on the rewarding journey.
“There's a lot of emotions bubbling up, for sure,” Davis said. “Former players have started to come by and see me. It's been fun.”
Davis will leave behind a legacy of achievement. The Aardvarks have become the dominant program in the small-school classification, winning 10 of their 13 state team titles under her watch. No girls coach has won more state championships, in any classification. During her time, Oregon Episcopal has won four state titles in singles and seven in doubles.
“I give the credit to the girls I've worked with,” Davis said. “It's been a wonderful career.”
But Davis is ready to move on from coaching and teaching PE at Oregon Episcopal. Her long commute from Sisters for the past four years has “taken its toll,” she said. And after spending much of the last few years in Boring caring for her father – who passed away in November – she plans to live full-time in Sisters.
“It seemed like it was a good time,” she said of her decision. “And 35 seemed like a nice, round number.”
Davis is proud of what the Aardvarks have accomplished during her tenure. Tennis rose to be the most successful girls sport at Oregon Episcopal, where the boys tennis team has won 15 state titles.
“I think many people are under the opinion that because it's a private school, that a lot of our kids belong to private clubs, and that's really not the case,” she said.
“Of course, there's a handful that have access to that. But the advantage I've had in teaching PE is that if I saw an athlete that had good hand-eye coordination – in particular, volleyball players – I would say, 'You should play tennis.' If you're an athlete, I can make you a tennis player.”
Davis likes to remind her players of how Hannah Huston and Cassy Lematta – who played soccer and volleyball, respectively – came together to win the state doubles title in 2013.
“They joined the team and they'd never played tennis in their lives,” Davis said. “And by the time they were seniors, they won the state tournament.”
Athletic director Dennis Sullivan marvels at Davis' ability to find athletes and shape them into players.
“Every year she's finding these gems,” Sullivan said. “She instills in them this confidence. She's such a great technical teacher, but she really inspires all these girls. All of the sudden, they're competing at districts and winning.
“At a 3A school, that's something that she's always had to do. She's always built this amazing team with such a strong identity. That's why they've had so much success. Coleen creates such a positive experience for them that girls are willing to take that risk and be a part of that program.”
JoAnne Landry (1993-94) and Rachael Nedrow (2011-12) combined to win four state singles titles under Davis. But the coach is most gratified by the seven doubles titles won by 14 different players.
“I would say if there's one strength that stands out in my career it would be doubles strategy,” she said. “I've done the best with doubles. I just feel like I understand the strategy better. My success has definitely been more in doubles than in singles.”
Growing up, Davis didn't play tennis until she moved from Mt. Tabor to Boring as an eighth-grader.
“There was nothing to do, so I would just hit a tennis ball against a garage for hours,” she said. “I never had lessons or any training. I was just kind of self-taught.”
She played tennis and basketball at Sandy, where she graduated in 1979. In tennis, she was a three-time state qualifier for the Pioneers and went on to a college career at Western Oregon, where she played doubles for a team that made nationals as a senior.
She was browsing the Sunday paper in 1986 when she saw Oregon Episcopal's ad for a PE teacher and tennis, basketball and soccer coach.
“I knew nothing about soccer, but I felt good with basketball and tennis,” said Davis, who in 1987 took over a tennis team that was coming off three consecutive state titles under coach Jansi King.
The Aardvarks won 3A/2A/1A titles under Davis in 1993 and 1995 and added eight 4A/3A/2A/1A titles between 2008 and 2018. She created banners to display the champions' names in the school's indoor tennis facility.
“It's very motivating for the kids,” Davis said. “They're like, 'I want to get my name up there.'”
Davis said that Oregon Episcopal has benefited greatly from having indoor courts in its multipurpose sports and recreation center. The school took over the facility in 1988 when the adjacent private club went bankrupt.
“When it's raining, the kids are still hitting balls,” Davis said.
Davis will lead the Aardvarks into the district tournament for the last time Monday and Wednesday. In each of the previous 34 district tournaments, she has qualified at least one player for state.
She is hoping to keep that streak alive, and at the same time, savor the time with her players and the tennis community.
“I never would've thought I'd stay somewhere for 35 years,” she said. “But what a blessing it's been. What's kept me there for so long is the kids.”
Sullivan said that Davis has been “such an important voice” not only for the PE department and tennis program, but for the school, as a whole.
“She's someone that you can't replace with one person,” Sullivan said. “In tennis, we'll find a coach, but we're going to have to find a lot of other amazing people to fill that leadership void when she leaves.”