A 2006 inductee into the Western Michigan Athletic Hall of Fame, Betsy Kuhle has long since established the women’s tennis program as not only one of the top programs in the Mid-American Conference, but the region as well. The longest-tenured coach at WMU in any sport, the 2013-14 season will mark the 32nd year that Kuhle will guide the Bronco tennis program. A record-breaking seven-time MAC Coach of the Year, Kuhle has coached three MAC Players of the Year, five MAC Freshmen of the Year, and ranks among the most successful coaches among all athletic programs at Western Michigan and the conference.
The Broncos have won eight of the last 16 MAC regular season championships (1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008) and 11 total (1984, 1990, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008) under Kuhle’s direction. Western Michigan also claimed the conference’s first two automatic NCAA berths with MAC Tournament titles in 1999 and 2000, and led the team to the NCAA tournament twice after, with MAC Tournament wins in 2006 and 2007.
Kuhle has compiled a 517-275 (.653) overall and 194-36 (.843) MAC dual-match record, including 30 straight top-three finishes in conference play. On March 23, 2012, Kuhle’s Broncos defeated Northern Illinois to give the coach her 500th career victory, making her just the second coach of any sport in Western Michigan history to reach a total of 500 career wins. Kuhle is among only three active coaches in the MAC to top the 500-win plateau at one institution, in any sport.
Time has done nothing to halt Kuhle aspirations, though, as the head coach continues to aggressively recruit top-tier players to bring the Broncos back to the MAC Championship and the NCAA Tournament. Western Michigan’s recruiting Class of 2013 was named an Honorable Mention on TennisRecruiting.net’s list of Top Mid-Major Recruiting Classes.
The most decorated coach in the MAC, Kuhle has won a conference-record seven-time MAC Coach of the Year (1990, 1995, 1997, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008). She was recognized as the Intercollegiate Tennis Association-Volvo Midwest Coach of the Year in 1990 after WMU finished eighth in Region IV. The WMU Alumni “W” Club honored Kuhle as its Woman of the Year in 1998.
The program’s academic success parallels the Broncos’ success on the court. Fifty-three of Kuhle’s players have been named to the MAC All-Academic team; eight have been named ITA/Volvo Scholar-Athletes; and three were GTE Academic All-District choices. Kuhle’s program has been honored as an ITA All-Academic team 18 years in a row, and there have been an amazing total of 60 Broncos named to the ITA All-Academic Team in that time. The ITA names its All-Academic teams based on an individual’s GPA; a player must maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.50 or better to qualify. The Broncos’ amazing dedication to academic as well as athletic accomplishment can perhaps best be summed up in this; the Broncos have not had fewer than three players honored on any one ITA All-Academic team since the 2001 season, and have had four or more in each of the last three seasons.
Kuhle has done much for tennis in the Kalamazoo community as well, hosting the USTA Midwest Boys’ and Girls’ 14s Zone Championships at Sorensen Courts for a number of years. Active in the profession, Kuhle has served on the ITA Board of Directors and a member of the operating committee. She was also chair of the ITA Midwest Regional committee from 1992-95 and 2000-03.
Facing a challenging slate to open the 2013 dual match season, the Broncos opened MAC play on a four-match win streak, starting the conference slate at 4-0 for the first time since the 2009 season. Included in the streak were home victories against Eastern Michigan and Toledo, as well as an impressive 4-3 road victory over the Buffalo Bulls. Doubles carried the day for the Brown and Gold through much of the conference season, as the Broncos went 16-8 (.667) in doubles play against their conference foes. The pairing of Maggie Remynse and Nini Sujashvili went 7-1 in MAC doubles and 11-5 overall, a mark that helped propel Sujashvili to Second Team All-MAC. Sujashvili also took home Academic All-MAC honors for the second straight year.
The 2012 season saw Kuhle reach the 500-win milestone as a head coach, when the Broncos opened up conference play with a 7-0 drubbing of Northern Illinois at West Hills Athletic Club. WMU went 17-11 in 2012, the best wins total for the Broncos since they won 21 matches in the 2008-09 season, and the Broncos’ third-place finish in 2012 continued their 30-year streak of never finishing lower than third under Kuhle.
The Broncos won their final three regular season MAC matches of the season before entering the MAC Tournament, where they were afforded the opportunity to get revenge against Buffalo, who had defeated the Broncos earlier in the season. Freshman Caroline Aleck scored the match-deciding victory, giving the Broncos a 4-3 win and sending them to the tournament semifinals against Akron.
Aleck was named the recipient of the team’s first annual Unsung Hero Award, given to the player whose significant contributions to the success of the team may otherwise go unrecognized. Teammate Kathleen Hawkins was voted the Amy Yeast MVP, voted on by the team and given to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of hard work, dedication, and teamwork.
Rachel Denny earned her second career Academic All-MAC honor, while sophomore Nini Sujashvili received her first Academic All-MAC honor in her first year of eligibility for the award. Three other Broncos were named as Academic All-MAC Honorable mentions; the five Broncos recognized ranked as the second-most for a single team in the conference, behind just Bowling Green’s six honorees.
Kuhle guided a Broncos team with just one senior (Amanda Moccia) to a third-place finish in the MAC in 2011, closing the season on a four-match MAC win streak heading into the conference tournament. For the second straight year, the Broncos knocked out in-state rival Eastern Michigan in the quarterfinal round, dropping the hosting Eagles 4-2 when Rachel Denny won the No. 6 singles match in three sets.
Freshman Nini Sujashvili was named the 2011 MAC Freshman of the Year as well as a First-Team All-MAC selection, posting a 20-13 record for the Broncos in her rookie campaign. Sujashvili represented the 21st First-Team selection for the Broncos since the conference moved to a First- and Second-Team system in 1994, an average of better than one a year. In addition, Maggie Remynse was named Second-Team All-MAC.
Junior Rachel Denny was voted the 2011 Amy Yeast Team Most Valuable Player by her teammates, as was also selected as the team’s captain for the upcoming 2011-12 season. Both Denny and graduating senior Amanda Moccia were named to the Academic All-MAC team, the third such honor for Denny and second for Moccia.
In 2010, Kuhle led a young team to the finals of the MAC Tournament for the sixth year in a row before bowing out to regular season champion Miami. Entering the tournament as the three-seed, the Broncos reached the finals by defeating nationally-ranked Akron 4-3 in the semis on senior Yumi Matsuto’s last match victory. Senior Emily Dudzik earned Second Team All-MAC honors for the second season in a row, while Dudzik and Amanda Moccia were named Academic All-MAC
The 2009 Broncos were one of Kuhle’s younger squads, with four freshmen seeing time on the court. Despite this, the Broncos had the best overall record among MAC teams (21-8) and reached the finals of the MAC Tournament. Senior Kerstin Pahl ended her outstanding career as arguably the best player in conference history with MAC records in singles wins (114) and overall wins (232) and the second-most doubles wins (118). She also earned the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Cissie Leary Sportsmanship Award to become the first MAC women’s tennis player to ever earn a national ITA award. Pahl was named First Team All-MAC, while Emily Dudzik earned Second Team All-MAC honors and Ashley Moccia was tabbed as the Leann Grimes Davidge Sportsmanship Award recipient. The Broncos also placed Pahl and Amanda Moccia, who were nationally-ranked in doubles throughout much of the season, on the Academic All-MAC Team.
Western Michigan continued its dominance of the Mid-American Conference in 2008 by claiming a fourth-straight undefeated MAC regular season championship (8-0). The season capped an amazing stretch of dominance in MAC play, marking the fourth consecutive season in which the team went undefeated against conference opponents in the regular season. The Broncos advanced all the way to the MAC Tournament final before losing a heartbreaker to Buffalo, 4-3.
WMU finished the season as the No. 53 team in the country, the highest end-of-season Intercollegiate Tennis Association ranking in school history. The Broncos’ ranking earned them a spot in the 60-team field for the 2009 National Team Indoor, where the Broncos faced South Alabama as a No. 3 seed.
The Broncos saw Pahl continue to remain undefeated in MAC singles on her way to only the third MAC Player of the Year award for WMU in school history. She was also named First Team All-MAC, while seniors Priyanka Parekh and Noriko Saruta were Second Team All-MAC. All three also earned Academic All-MAC honors. Records continued to fall at WMU as Saruta set new marks for overall wins (212) and doubles wins in a career (114). Kuhle also added her MAC-leading seventh MAC Coach of the Year honor.
Western Michigan claimed its third-straight undefeated MAC regular season championship (8-0) in 2007 and went on to win its second straight MAC Tournament championship, and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive appearance year. Senior Carrie Jeanmaire and Pahl were named First Team All-MAC and Parekh was named Second Team All-MAC. All three were also Academic All-MAC selections, and WMU was named an ITA All-Academic Team for the 12th straight season. Marks fell as Jeanmaire reached 204 overall wins and 112 doubles wins to set new school records.
WMU finished the year with 12 consecutive victories before falling in the NCAA Tournament to finish the year 22-7, the third straight 20-win season and tied for the second-most wins ever in school history. Kuhle was named MAC Coach of the Year for the sixth time.
Kuhle led WMU to one of its best seasons in school history in 2006, as the Broncos dropped just three total points in conference play en route to the MAC regular season and tournament titles and a berth in the NCAA Tournament. The team was a success both on the court and in the classroom as it featured both the MAC Player of the Year (Malena Remynse) and MAC Freshman of the Year (Pahl), three All-MAC honorees (Remynse, Jeanmaire, Reedhina Parekh), the MAC Tournament MVP (Rattiya Hiranrat) and four Academic All-MAC honorees (Hiranrat, R. Parekh, Jeanmaire, Remynse). Hiranrat’s honors concluded a year where she set new school records with 200 overall wins and 109 doubles wins in a career.
The Broncos claimed the MAC championship in 2005 after posting a perfect 9-0 league slate, finishing 20-6 overall. The program’s 20 victories marked the fourth-highest total in school history and was the 17th straight year the team compiled a winning record. Two student-athletes were on both the All-MAC and Academic All-MAC teams. WMU also finished the season ranked 55th in the final Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings, the highest end of season ranking ever for the Broncos.
Prior to taking over the Broncos, Kuhle served as a pro at the John Gardiner Tennis Ranch in Carmel Valley, Calif., for two years. She held a similar post at the Santa Catalina Girls School in Monterey for nearly three years. In September, 1980, Kuhle assumed professional duties locally at the West Hills Tennis Club.
A 1976 graduate of the University of Illinois with a bachelor’s degree in finance, Kuhle played No. 1 singles for the Illini. She received a master’s degree in business administration from WMU in December of 1987.
A native of Decatur, Ill., Kuhle captured the 1994 ITA 35-and-over title and ranked as high as fourth in the Western Tennis Association’s rankings. She also served as the chairperson for the WTA Junior Wightman Cup Tournament.
It can be said that Kuhle comes from a true tennis family, as well. Kuhle’s three brothers serve as tennis pros: Lornie is the head pro and owner of the Bobby Riggs Tennis Club in Del Mar, Calif., and is in charge of the Palm Desert Country Club’s tennis operations; Chuck is head pro and manager at the Decatur Racket Club in their hometown, and Mike is a pro in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
The passion for tennis has even moved on to the next generation. Kuhle’s niece Jennifer Kuhle is a graduate of Cal-Santa Barbara, where she was a letterwinner for the Gauchos in the early 2000’s, and was a Nevada state #1 singles champion; nephew Patrick Kuhle is a freshman on the Quincy men’s tennis team; nephew Nick Kuhle was a nationally-ranked USTA junior tennis player; and nieces Tracy and Amy Kuhle were Illinois All-Stars in high school tennis, posting four top-four finishes in the state in doubles play in high school. Tracy now attends Western Michigan and competes on the women’s tennis team.