Brian Murphy: Life is good for vindicated coach Tiffany Coll at Mountain View

May 4, 2014 

Mountain View tennis coach Tiffany Coll talks to Aaron Cappel and Alli Milleman-Shaw during a match last week. “In matches, you can’t be on the court. You have to talk to them through the fence and between changeovers only,” she said. “We talk a little bit of strategy.”


— The sun is shining and, on this day at least, the spring wind is not gusting tennis balls far from their intended course at Mountain View High practice.

Tiffany Coll, the Mavericks' first-year coach, is bouncing from court to court, emphasizing technique and imparting strategy.

And dodging errant balls.

"Don't hit me. You know my rule," she says when a ball just misses her. "You hit me, I hit you."

She laughs. Her players, boys and girls of assorted ability levels, laugh, too.

Life is good for the 28-year-old former Boise State player and assistant coach.

"The more kids I can touch and impact and teach this game, because I think it's such a great game, I'm all for it," said Coll, who coached at Rocky Mountain the previous two seasons.

It wasn't all that long ago when Coll faced bigger problems than a few wayward tennis balls. Coll was fired from her assistant coach position at Boise State in October 2010 after allegedly committing NCAA violations.

Coll disputed the allegations - which were eventually part of a large NCAA case against Boise State - from the outset, protesting her innocence and maintaining that she was never given a chance to defend herself.

In September 2011, the NCAA cleared Coll of wrongdoing in the Boise State infractions case and did not impose penalties on her.

"A lot of time, energy, emotion and money went into fighting for what I felt was right," Coll said at the time.

Today, she is still upset the school did not back her - a 2007 graduate who spent two years as a volunteer assistant coach.

"It was rough. It was emotional. Why wasn't the support there from the school? It was automatically I was guilty and that was it," she said this week. "I knew what I had done. I knew I hadn't done anything. From the get-go, I said I was innocent and I was going to fight that. As stubborn as I am, I'm going to fight that and do what I thought was right."

The NCAA ruling cleared the way for Coll to return to college coaching, though not at Boise State. The NCAA's decision did not change the school's choice to dismiss her.

"They basically said, 'We don't really care what the NCAA said. We still think you're guilty,' " Coll said. "At that point, do you keep fighting? You spend a ton of years doing that. At that point, I kind of moved on. I knew I'd be OK."

That meant finding a way back to the tennis court.

Coll, who routinely played No. 5 or 6 singles and No. 2 or 3 doubles at Boise State, won 150 career matches, was an All-WAC doubles player in 2004-05 and helped the Broncos to the NCAA Tournament in 2007. She had three surgeries on her right shoulder after her sophomore, junior and senior seasons. Her playing days are all but over.

"I get too frustrated when I go out there. I know where my tennis was, and it's nowhere near that," she said.

Instead, she finds a release for her competitive instincts in coaching. Rocky Mountain's boys finished fourth in the state last year. Mountain View finished fourth earlier this month in the Capital Invitational, a good tune-up before this week's district meet.

"You can always see that spark (of competitiveness)," said Riley Clayeux, Mountain View's top girls singles player.

At a level where many players are just worried about returning the ball over the net and keeping it in the court, Coll has tried to impart strategic lessons.

During practice, she worked with senior Ismar Alihodzic on taking an easier shot to an open court rather than making a perfect shot.

"She's instilled something in us that has started getting us wins," Alihodzic said. "She really knows everything that we need to succeed and go farther."

But this isn't college tennis. As evidenced by the crack running through two of the courts and the grass growing on another. Coll can't push as much. Or coach as much during matches.

Rather than wins and losses, she emphasizes growth. Some of the kids, like Brody Gorringe, who will hit balls all night, are falling in love with the sport. Coll points to Zoe Stave and Lydia Marcado, two freshman girls on the No. 1 doubles team.

"They haven't won a lot this year, but they're the ones who have improved the most," Coll said. "They're learning, and it will make them stronger."

Coll knows something about bouncing back. She hasn't ruled out a return to the college game, but this right here isn't bad.

The courts might get remodeled in the offseason.

The parents have allowed Coll to coach and brought snacks rather than complaints.

"We've had a lot of fun," Coll said.

The sun is shining.

Brian Murphy: 377-6444, Twitter: @MurphsTurph

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