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Sunday, March 03, 2024
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‘Couldn’t dream of doing that anywhere else’: Women’s tennis coach Kristen Maines on her record-breaking 137th victory

Maines, a UB tennis alum, discusses her Buffalo roots and coming full circle in her UB career

<p>Women’s tennis head coach Kristen Maines became the winningest coach in program history.</p>

Women’s tennis head coach Kristen Maines became the winningest coach in program history.

Women’s tennis coach Kristen Maines graduated from UB in 2006 with school records in singles and double wins. Now, she is the winningest women’s tennis coach in UB program history. After the team’s victory over Siena on Feb. 11, Maines claimed her 137th win, breaking her former coach and mentor Kathy Twist’s record. 

“It was definitely a longtime goal, so it felt amazing to achieve that,” Maines said. “I feel incredibly privileged to have the opportunity to be at the same school for such a long time and especially in the community where I have grown up and essentially spent my whole tennis career.”

Born and raised in Amherst, New York, Maines spent her summers sailing with her family. She picked up tennis at age seven to stay busy during the offseason months. By age 14, she was competing nationally.

As a Buffalo native, Maines understands the significance of accomplishing this feat in the same community she began her career. 

“To achieve that [win record] at Miller Tennis Center, I grew up playing on those courts,” Maines said. “I just really couldn’t dream of doing that anywhere else.” 

In high school, Maines always hoped to compete at a Division-I university. After receiving a scholarship offer from UB, Maines accepted and thrived under her role model: then-head coach Twist.

“I couldn’t have been happier looking back in retrospect that I chose to stay in Buffalo,” Maines said. 

Twist has been with Maines for the majority of her career with UB, assisting in her development from star player to head coach.

“[Twist] went from a coach to a mentor, to a friend to an advocate,” Maines said. “She’s really played a lot of different roles in my life.” 

Maines dedicates a lot of her success to the people around her as a player, specifically noting Twist and current associate head coach Smaranda Stan McNerney. 

Throughout Maines’ UB career as a player and a coach, McNerney has been alongside her since the beginning. 

“When I took over as head coach, I offered [Mcnerney] the assistant coach job and she’s been with me ever since,” Maines said. “She’s a big part of these wins, too.”

McNerney joined the team as a freshman during Maines’ senior season, and the two have since spent 17 years together in the program. Their collaboration forms a competitive and successful culture within the program, carrying the same values and coaching philosophies of Twist into their own coaching careers.

“I really do think we are an amazing team together due to the culture that’s been created by Kathy Twist,” McNerney said. “For us to continue the culture of success, it’s amazing.”

Maines began her UB coaching career as a graduate assistant coach while also pursuing an early childhood education degree. After graduating, Maines was hired to the staff as a full-time assistant coach. 

Coaching was not always a part of her future plans, but when given the opportunity from Twist, Maines ran with it. 

“My hopes had been focused more on athletic administration,” Maines said. “I was privileged to have such a great role model in Kathy who really took me under her wing.”

Since taking over as head coach in 2012, Maines led UB to countless successes, including back-to-back Mid-American Conference (MAC) Championships in 2017 and 2018.

Qualifying for the MAC Tournament in her first season as a head coach, Maines guided the Bulls to the semifinals in the 2013-14 season with a 15-6 record, the most victories since the 2006-07 season. 

Leading the Bulls to a 17-4 record in the 2017-18 season, the best in program history, Maines was named MAC Coach of the Year and the Wilson/Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Northeast Coach of the Year. 

In the 2019-20 season, Maines and the Bulls held a 10-2 record before COVID-19 cut their season short.

Along with the wins and accolades, Twist, Maines and McNerney emphasize the importance of a high academic standing in their players. 

In the past five semesters, women’s tennis has achieved the highest GPA of any athletics program, most recently posting a 3.719 GPA this past fall semester. With a GPA of 3.937 in spring 2021, the program achieved the highest GPA in the history of the UB Athletics department. 

The link between academic and athletic success is no coincidence; Maines stresses the importance of academics and a “student-first” mentality to her players and recruits.

“It’s not something that happens by chance that we’re continually doing well in the classroom,” Maines said. “When you’re coming to play tennis here as a student athlete, you are held accountable and held to a very high standard.”

While recounting her career journey and reliving her accomplishments, Maines made it clear that her career is far from over.

“There’s certainly a lot more goals to achieve and milestones that I’d like to get to,” Maines said. 

From the bottom of the conference in her freshman season, to an appearance in the MAC finals as a senior, and now all-time winningest coach in program history, Maines’ contribution to the success of the program is immeasurable.

“You have a better respect for the program and organization when you really are a part of something that’s grown from the bottom to the top,” Maines said. 

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