WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- Jeff Northam, the men's tennis coach at Whitman College, has been named Northwest Conference Coach of the Year after leading his freshman-dominated team to a league championship and a national ranking.
With one senior, one junior and five freshmen playing key roles this spring, Whitman rolled to records of 15-6 on the season and 12-1 in the NWC. It is the most dual match victories in a season for a Missionary men's tennis team since the spring of 1988, when Whitman was 15-7 and the conference champion for a third consecutive season. Northam was a senior on that year's team.
Whitman is ranked No. 15 nationally, and No. 5 in the West Region, according to the latest NCAA Div. III poll released by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA). Whitman expects to be one of five teams invited to compete in the May 1-2 NCAA regional playoffs.
"Jeff is one of the outstanding coaches and recruiters in the region, and he clearly he deserves this award for his efforts," Whitman athletic director Travis Feezell said. "It's not just that he was able to attract a horde of tremendously talented first-year players, but more that he is able to create a team atmosphere where individuals thrive and the team concept is alive."
"I've spent time at practice watching Jeff and his practices are high energy, incredibly positive, and athletically demanding," Feezell noted. "Isn't that we should expect of great coaches? We are very fortunate to have someone so talented at our college."
Northam is the third Whitman coach this semester to earn NWC Coach of the Year honors. Michelle Ferenz for women's basketball and Jennifer Blomme for women's swimming were honored earlier in the semester.
Northam, who played on three of Whitman's NWC title teams in the 1980s, returned to campus in the fall of 1997 as director of tennis and full-time men's coach. He was named NWC Coach of the Year in the spring of 2000 after his team won that year's championship.
Since returning to Whitman as a full-time coach, Northam has led his men's teams to an impressive win-loss record of 74-23 against NWC opponents.
In addition to coaching and teaching at Whitman, Northam has been active in a number of collegiate and professional tennis associations. Last fall, he organized and directed the ITA's Pacific Northwest regional tournament for women. Earlier this decade, he organized and hosted the first two NCAA Div. III National Indoor Tournaments for men.
In each of the past three years, Northam has hosted the annual conference of the U.S. Professional Tennis Association's Pacific Northwest chapter. Last summer, he ran a pilot program for the U.S. Tennis Association in which young multicultural tennis players from around the nation came to Whitman for a weekend of tennis and college exploration. He is continuing the program this summer.
Northam has been active in the USPTA's regional chapter for more than a decade. He served as treasurer from 1991 to 1995, and he was named the region's Professional of the Year in 1993 and again in 2001.
Following completion of his Whitman degree in economics in 1988, Northam served as an admission officer for three years. He worked as Director of Tennis at the Walla Walla Country Club from 1991 to 1994. He also served as the part-time men's tennis coach at Whitman in 1990 and again in 1993 and 1994.
While completing a master's degree (Exercise and Sports Studies) in the mid-1990s at Boise State University, Northam worked as an assistant tennis coach for the Broncos for two seasons. Before returning to Whitman, he was the men's and women's tennis coach at Montana State-Bozeman for one season.