`Jacks one win away from a share of first-ever conference championship
After a 2010-11 season that saw SFA compile a mountain of program firsts, it would seem nearly impossible for the 'Jacks to equal those numbers in the second season under head coach Patrick Sullivan, but somebody forgot to mention that to Sullivan and his youthful players. SFA capped off its first-ever Southland Conference regular-season title, by racing their way through the conference tournament crushing everyone it their path. The 'Jacks won the tournament title, surrendering only one point in the three matches, on their way to their first-ever berth in the NCAA Championships.
SFA finished the regular season tied for fourth nationally with 23 wins, setting a new program record for victories. That led to another program first as the 'Jacks posted their second-consecutive 20-win season. The 23-5 (.821) mark also set a new program record for winning percentage. Along the way, SFA rattled off a program-best 14-match win streak and had six players earn All-Southland Conference honors (two singles and four doubles players), including four first-team selections. In addition to his players, Sullivan was honored by the league earning SLC Coach of the Year honors.
The 'Jacks' also posted their first win over a nationally-ranked team, topping No. 59 Tulane, 5-2, in March. Although SFA finished the regular season with a 1-3 record over nationally ranked teams, SFA had two wins over programs that would later land in the ITA poll.
Sullivan also raised the level of competition for the 'Jacks in his second season and his youthful squad responded to the challenge. The 2012 campaign saw SFA notch wins over schools from the Big East, Big 12, Conference USA, Pac 12, SEC and Sun Belt.
SFA's production against top-tier teams did not go unnoticed by the voters, as SFA landed in the national rankings for a second consecutive season. The 'Jacks climbed as high as No. 35, before closing out the regular season ranked 45th. In addition to the team ranking, the doubles team of senior Alina Shazhko and junior Jithmie Jayawickrema were ranked as high as No. 17 in the nation. The ranking came following the tandem's wins over two top-30 teams, and was the highest rank for a doubles team in the history of the Southland.
The successful 2012 campaign came on the heels of a record-setting 2011 year that saw SFA's rookie head coach rewrite nearly every record in the book. Sullivan wasted no time following his hiring on Sept. 1, 2010, going 20-5 in his inaugural campaign and shattering the record for both wins and winning percentage. His rookie season saw SFA earn its first ever team national ranking, first top-10 regional finish, first nationally-ranked player, and highest individual regional ranking ever. The `Jacks had not only their highest Southland Conference finish in over a decade, but also beat three conference rivals (Sam Houston, Southeastern Louisiana, and Texas State) for the first time since the 1990s. The `Jacks were successful in the classroom as well, earning their second consecutive ITA All-Academic team honors for GPAs of 3.5 or higher.
Sullivan capitalized on the momentum of the `Jacks great season and lived up to his reputation as one of the nation's best recruiters by signing the #1 ranked recruiting class of 2011 among mid-major programs and the #23 overall class in the NCAA, marking the first time that a Southland Conference recruiting class had been ranked among the nation's top 25.
Sullivan came to SFA from the University of Arkansas, where he spent two separate tours, most recently in 2009-10. Sullivan returned to Fayetteville in June of 2009 and despite getting a late start on recruiting, signed the #17-ranked recruiting class in the country. Led by these strong newcomers, the Razorbacks were able to overcome the loss of the top three players from the previous year's top-10 team and finished with 18 wins, ranked No. 22 in the nation and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. That season the Razorbacks had wins over No. 22 Ole Miss, No. 23 Washington, No. 27 TCU, No. 32 Tulsa and No. 35 Oklahoma.
Sullivan had previously served as a graduate assistant coach with head coach Michael Hegarty and the Razorbacks from 2004-06, while completing a law degree, before taking over as the full-time assistant coach during the 2006-07 season. During his tenure at Arkansas, four of Sullivan's players achieved national rankings, including two players in the national top-25. In 2007, Sullivan's final season, the Razorbacks fielded the ITA Central Region's top-ranked singles player and two of the region's top-five doubles teams. While at Arkansas, Sullivan coached the Razorback's most decorated women's tennis player ever, Aurelija Miseviciute, who won an astounding 126 singles matches in her career, earned two All-America and three All-SEC honors, was a two-time ITA National Indoor Champion, and was the nation's #1-ranked player in back to back years.
During his second stop at Arkansas Sullivan coached Anouk Tigu, who was voted the ITA Central Region Player to Watch in spring 2010, validating the honor by winning the ITA Central Region championship in fall 2010. Also in 2010, Sullivan recruits Kelsey Sundaram and Claudine Paulson were named the ITA Rookie Player of the Year and formed part of a doubles team ranked as high as #18 in the country, respectively. Tigu, who was ranked No. 29 in the nation in singles, was a first-team All-SEC while Sundaram made the all-SEC freshman team.
Before his latest season at Arkansas, Sullivan spent two seasons in Dallas serving as assistant women's coach at SMU under current Auburn head coach Lauren Longbotham-Meisner. Sullivan helped guide the Mustangs to an all-time best 28-3 record in 2008-09 and their first top-25 finish in 20 years. In his two years at SMU, three of Sullivan's recruits garnered national rankings in singles and four different doubles pairs appeared in the top-50 including Marta Lesniak, the ITA Southwest Rookie of the Year and Conference USA Freshman of the Year. Lesniak reached as high as #39 in the nation in singles and #19 in doubles during her freshman season and would reach as high as #2 nationally in singles and become an All-American during her SMU career.
Sullivan's SMU teams dominated on the court as well as in the classroom, earning nine all-conference athletic and academic awards, conference newcomer of the year, freshman of the year, and player of the year awards, and earning the highest GPA of any team on campus in back-to-back years.
Sullivan began his college coaching career as a volunteer assistant coach for the men's tennis team at his alma mater, Texas A&M. His coaching responsibilities at Texas A&M included working with the strength and conditioning coaches and supervising the team's summer conditioning program.
Sullivan and his wife Caroline, who works as the campus dietitian at SFA, have been married for four years.
The Sullivan Résumé
2012 SLC Coach of the Year
2012 SLC Champions
Six All-SLC selections
Four First-Team All-SLC Selections
43-9 (.827) Overall Record
17-5 vs. SLC
0-1 vs. Big 10
2-1 vs. Big 12
1-0 vs. Big East
1-0 vs. C-USA
1-0 vs. Pac 12
1-0 vs. SEC