Mai-Ly Tran, formerly of Cal State Fullerton, had been on the hunt for a full-time head coaching position when she stumbled upon Drake, where she felt an immediate connection.
“I met the girls, and I just felt really at home here,” Tran said, “I believe in living the Bulldog Way.”
In 2013, she joined Cal State Fullerton as an assistant coach, a school of which she is an alum and competed in tennis herself. Alongside head coach Dianne Matias, Tran was able to assist in leading the team to its first winning season since 2004, when Tran was a player.
Former Drake head coach Sadhaf Pervez, who had been at Drake since 2013, resigned from her position not long before the spring season got underway, leaving a vacancy that needed to be filled before competition began.
John Hollimon became the interim had coach for the season, having a semester off after completing medical school. He was identified by Men’s Tennis head coach Davidson Kozlowski as a potential replacement, as Hollimon played under Kozlowski at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Although Drake Women’s Tennis had one of its best years in program history under Pervez finishing 21-5 in 2015, the Bulldogs still finished above .500, 15-12, last season with Hollimon at the helm.
“It’s been a year of a lot of change,” junior Summer Brills said. “There was a change in the coach and we have a new girl on the team as well.”
Tran boasted an impressive resume coming into Drake. Prior to Cal State Fullerton, Tran was the director of tennis at Hope International University and coached for four years at Orange Lutheran High School in California.
When she returned to her alma mater as an assistant coach, not only did she help lead the team to its first winning season in a decade, she led and encouraged her players to take their determination and discipline from the court into the classroom and community.
She plans to do the same for the Bulldogs.
“She wants to get us involved in the community and to volunteer more,” junior Tess Herder said.
Tran has a history of going above and beyond for her players. She even went as far as tutoring a player who went on to become a three-time Big West singles first-team selection and the first Cal State Fullerton to earn first-team honors in program history.
The Bulldogs seem excited to be a part of a Tran-led team. Having permanent leadership provides a new dynamic to the team, utilizing resources they may not have in the past.
“(Tran) wants to utilize the sports psychology department and weights training more than we have in the past,” Herder said. “I think all of this cross-training will help us rise above the other programs.”
Tran believes in outworking the competition. Her new players seem to have their work cut out for them.
“Although we may not have the most resources, I’ve always been able to do more with less,” Tran said. “We just try to take it one day at a time.”
The season opens for Drake Women’s Tennis on the 16th of September at the Roger Knapp Tennis Center for the Drake Invitational.