STEPHENVILLE – For the first time in nearly two decades, Tarleton will be in search of a new leader for the women’s tennis program after head coach Lance Drake has announced his resignation effective May 1 due to health concerns.
“After much prayer, discussion and counsel from those closest to me, I have decided to step down as the head tennis coach at Tarleton State University due to health and family concerns,” said Drake. “These concerns – some beyond my control – require immediate attention and are where I need to put all of my focus.”
Drake will end his illustrious career as the most decorated tennis coach in the history of Tarleton State University.
Prior to his arrival in August 2000, Tarleton’s women’s tennis team had an overall record as a senior college under .500 but the tide would turn under Drake’s leadership. The Vernon native righted the ship and led Tarleton to 11 NCAA regional tournaments since 2003, including the program’s only Elite Eight appearance in 2006.
“Coach Drake has done a tremendous job as the leader of our tennis program,” said Athletic Director Lonn Reisman. “He has been a great model, not only for our student-athletes, but for our entire athletic department. I appreciate the professionalism he has displayed for the last 19 years and he will be greatly missed. He’s a class act in every way.”
Drake has coached four different players to the Lone Star Conference Player of the Year award, as well as six LSC Sportsmanship Players of the Year and several Wilson/ITA Central Region Championships, ITA South Central Region Most Improved awards, ITA Rookies of the Year, Academic All-LSC selections, LSC Freshmen of the Year, Academic All-Americans, and the Division II ITA/Arthur Ashe, Jr. Sportsmanship and Leadership Award winners for the Central Region. He has also had the opportunity to coach numerous nationally ranked players.
In addition to his reputation of boasting elite talent on the court, Drake’s players earned the reputation of getting the job done in the classroom. During his tenure, nine of his teams having received the ITA Academic All-America Team Award after finishing the season with an overall team grade point average of at least 3.20. Eight players earned academic All-America recognition and more than 50 were academic all-conference honorees. He has also had over 30 players named to the ITA All-Academic team.
“It has been an honor and a privilege to be a part of the athletic staff and an employee of Tarleton State University,” said Drake. “I will always be grateful for the opportunity I was afforded back in 2000. I’d like to thank the administration and all of the student-athletes who made the choice to come and compete for the purple and white. Their hard work and sacrifices have left the program in a better place today.
“As competitors, we always want to win – and we certainly did our fair share of that – but there is so much more to this coaching profession and this program,” he continued. “The idea was to establish a program with lasting success, to exemplify the highest level of sportsmanship, to build relationships and to be an example of Christ to others. I hope we have made Tarleton proud by the way we represented this university.”
Before coming to Tarleton in 2000, Drake spent seven seasons as head coach of the men and women’s tennis teams at Hardin Simmons University in Abilene. While at Hardin-Simmons, Drake established Hardin-Simmons as an elite NCAA Division III men and women’s tennis programs in the state. He had at least one of his teams qualify for the national tournament each year and most were ranked in regional and national polls.
Drake entered the coaching profession in 1989 as a graduate assistant at Howard Payne University in Brownwood. Just one year later, he was promoted to head coach and promptly led the men’s team to the Texas Intercollegiate Athletics Association (TIAA) Championship while directing the women to a tie for the TIAA crown. He was named NAIA District VIII Coach of Year for his efforts. Drake moved to HSU in 1993, where he was recognized as conference Coach of the Year seven straight seasons before coming to Tarleton.
A 1987 graduate of Hardin-Simmons, Drake earned four varsity tennis letters for the Cowboys. He placed fourth in the Trans-America Athletic Conference as a freshman, was named the team’s Most Valuable Player as a junior and helped the Cowboys to a national tournament berth as a senior.
Elianne Douglas-Miron will lead the team through the remainder of the season. A new head coach will be named prior to next season.
There will be a reception for Drake held in the Texan Room at Wisdom Gym on Friday, April 26 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The public is invited to the come-and-go event.