SPOKANE, Wash. – Jo Ann Wagstaff, who has led the Whitworth University women's tennis team as head coach for 30 years, has announced her retirement effective December 31, 2014. However, she will continue to serve the Pirate Athletics Department in her role as Associate Director of Athletics and Senior Women's Administrator.
In addition, Whitworth Director of Athletics Tim Demant has named Rachel Aldridge as interim head coach for women's tennis.
"I'm forever grateful to Whitworth for the opportunity to coach women's tennis all of these years," Wagstaff said. "I feel especially privileged and blessed to have worked with and become lifelong friends with dozens and dozens of wonderful student-athletes. The dedication, work, and passion they have contributed to the program has made my job rewarding and joyful beyond what words could describe. Although it is extremely difficult to leave the world of college coaching, I am very much looking forward to spending more time with family, friends, and maybe even pick up the tennis racket again on a regular basis!"
Wagstaff's coaching tenure at Whitworth spanned five college presidents and eight directors of athletics, not including herself. She served two terms as Whitworth's interim Athletics Director, including a two-year stint from the fall of 1990 until the spring of 1992.
"While I have only been here for a short time, I have heard of and seen some of the impact Jo has had during her long and distinguished coaching career," Demant said. "She will be missed on the sidelines. And while these transitions are never seemless, we have an interim coach in Rachel who I believe will continue the success of Whitworth as a first class women's tennis program"
Over the course of her 30 seasons Wagstaff's teams won 326 matches and five Northwest Conference championships. Her 1997 squad played in the NAIA national tournament, while the 2009 and 2010 teams advanced to the NCAA Division III tournaments. In 2009 Whitworth ended Linfield's 106-match NWC winning streak on the way to three consecutive NWC titles of its own under Wagstaff.
Wagstaff was recognized as Northwest Conference Coach of the Year in 1991 and in 2009. In 1987 she was selected as NAIA District 1 Coach of the Year.
"The women who played for Jo adore her," said Whitworth VP for Institutional Advancement Scott McQuilkin, who served as the Pirates' AD for 15 of Wagstaff's 30 years. "She's been a mentor, a friend, a confidant, and a highly accomplished coach. If you polled her Whitworth coaching colleagues, you would repeatedly hear these descriptors of her: professional, collegial, principled, good-natured and good-humored. For thirty years, Jo has been a model of the very best of what a college coach and leader should be."
Along the way she has mentored several women who were head coaches at Whitworth. One is current women's basketball coach Helen Higgs.
"It has been an honor to serve beside Jo as a fellow head coach during my 20-year tenure at Whitworth," Higgs said. "She has been a mentor, a role model and a friend, and I am better coach for working with her. She has taught me to be more patient. She has reminded me to have fun and she has always given me grace when I needed. Her influence on our department runs very deep."
Aldridge was the Northwest Conference Sportswoman of the Year in 2010 and the NWC Player of the Year in 2011 and a four-time First Team All-NWC honoree. She has been an assistant coach with the Pirates for the last three seasons and her duties as interim head coach will begin immediately.
"Rachel is the right person to lead our women's tennis program at this time," Demant said. "She has been a huge part of this program, as a player and an assistant coach, for the last six years."
The Pirates open the spring schedule on February 8th with a non-conference match at Lewis-Clark State.