Women’s Tennis Continues Success
Now in her 10th season as head coach of Long Beach State women’s tennis team, Jenny Hilt-Costello has seen the program go from relative obscurity to one that’s a real force on the national scene.
Since 2001, the 49ers have won four Big West Conference championships, including the last three. As the guiding force, Hilt-Costello has been named conference coach of the year four times.
Success has also been reflected in the national rankings, especially last season when Long Beach State climbed to an in-season ranking of No. 18 and finished the year with a ranking of No. 26 out of 308 Division I teams.
“Definitely, the student referendum that passed about six years ago, that helped with scholarships,” she said, noting that her team went from four to eight scholarships because of the additional funding. “That was a big boost for us. Obviously, the more scholarships you have, the more talent you can recruit. We have a lot of positives to recruit to here at Long Beach State and I always felt that if we had more resources to work with we could get the players to come here.”
And, although Southern California is known as a hotbed of tennis talent, the 49ers’ roster reflects a heavy international flavor, with four players from England, and one from each Australia, France and Germany.
“My philosophy is that my job is to win,” said Hilt-Costello, who was a walk-on at UCLA in the mid-1990s before earning a scholarship and being named team captain as a senior. “I need to recruit the best players available and right now we are able to get better international talent that we are local talent.”
As coach of a top 35 program, Hilt-Costello feels she needs to recruit players that will add to and keep building the 49er program into what she knows can be a fixture in the top 25.
“Getting Southern California athletes interested is very hard,” she said. “We’ve had a really hard time historically getting the top players who could come in and start for us. I am not exactly sure what the reason is, because we are definitely a premier tennis program now. I know we are definitely attracting more interest now from around the country outside of California.”
Hilt-Costello’s top player is sophomore Hannah Grady from Coventry, England. As a freshman who arrived in January 2006, Grady was selected as both the 2006 Big West Freshman and Player of the Year.
“We have a great group and we work very hard here,” said Hilt-Costello. “We put in the maximum number of hours the NCAA allows in terms of practice time; we have talented players; and our goal is always to make each player better and continue our team success.”