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UNF women’s tennis hires new coach

Audra Cohen has been hired as the new head coach of UNF women’s tennis, as the program looks to build on their recent success. 

Cohen, 25, comes from the University of Wisconsin, where she was assistant women’s tennis coach for two years. She also had a successful singles career, winning the National Collegiate Athletic Association Women’s Singles Championship in 2007 and reaching a career-high ranking of No. 229 on the United States Tennis Association Pro Circuit.

“I think there’s always a certain amount of pressure when you step into a new role,” she said. “However, this program has done so well in the past that I don’t feel nervous.”

The women’s team comes off the back of a decent season, finishing third in regular conference standings and losing in the final of the NCAA tournament to East Tennessee State University.

“The program has a history of success,” Cohen said. “The job has the word ‘opportunity’ written all over it, and I believe we can become a tennis dynasty. It’s a tennis-loving community and a wonderful place to live and run a tennis program.”

Cohen said she applied for the job in a traditional manner and did not have an inside man or any connections.

“[UNF Athletic Director] Lee Moon has done a phenomenal job,” Cohen said. “I’m young, and I’ve never been in a head coaching role, but he understands that I have the ability to lead this program to great success.”

Born in Plantation, Fla., Cohen began her collegiate career playing at Northwestern before transferring to Miami. She was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year and Athlete of the Year, becoming only the second women’s tennis player in conference history to achieve both. She won more accolades in her sophomore and junior years, collecting the Intercollegiate Tennis Association National Player of the Year and Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year awards.

“I haven’t met any of the players yet, but I spoke to them all on the phone and got to know them very well,” she said. “It’s going to be a learning experience getting to know the players and how they operate on the court. We have a transfer from Texas Tech coming, and I’m excited about her.”

Cohen will go on a few recruiting trips over the next few weeks to boost the roster. She also said she will have to make her role clear to the players from the beginning.

“I really believe in accountability, you make the bed you lie in,” she said. “I would say that my approach will be extremely fair. I expect 100 percent, and that’s it.”

It will also be hard to distinguish between friendship and discipline because of her age, Cohen said.

“I’m going to have to make sure the girls know I’m not here to make friends with them,” she said. “Because I’m young, I could fall into that trap.”

Cohen was recently selected as one of the coaches for the 2011 USTA Men’s and Women’s Collegiate Teams, an elite training program for the top American collegiate tennis players.

She joins Jamea Jackson, former top 50 in the world rankings, of Oklahoma State University in coaching the women’s squad. The program is designed to provide players with valuable exposure to the USTA Pro Circuit in a team-oriented environment during the year.

“It’s a huge position, and I’m extremely excited about it,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity for us to spread the word of UNF at the pro level events and show that we can have a voice at that level.”

Moon said Cohen was the perfect candidate for the job with her combined knowledge, experience, energy and enthusiasm.

“We’re excited to have her,” Moon said. “She knows what it takes to be highly competitive in her sport, and I was very impressed with her knowledge and teaching ability. I don’t think I have to set too many goals for her, as she has her own goals.”

In terms of the future, Cohen said she was speaking to former Wimbledon finalist and Jacksonville resident MaliVai Washington about how to reach out to the community.

“My mission here at UNF is to make tennis a huge part of the community,” she said. “I want to use the UNF tennis program as a way to bring attention to tennis in the community and bring a love of the game to Jacksonville.”

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