The Decaturian

New to the Big Blue

Maggie Ruane

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Millikin University welcomes Alexandra Covington as head coach and Chris Villafranco as assistant coach for the Big Blue Tennis Program. Both coaches are from the South and are looking forward to making their mark in the Midwest, picking up an up and coming tennis program, developed by former coach Dustin Forman, who relocated back home to Florida. Let’s see what all this racquet is about.

Coach Covington and Coach Villafranco have a passion for tennis. They knew from the day they picked up a tennis racquet it would impact their respective lives tremendously. Coach Covington has been playing tennis since she was four years old. She knew she had a passion for the sport from the day she started. No other sports could compare, and she is determined to keep tennis in her life. Covington played collegiate tennis all four years at Division II Indianapolis University in the highly competitive Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC). After a very successful college career, she was hired as an assistant tennis coach at Allegheny College in Pennsylvania. Two years later, she has found herself back in the Midwest in Decatur, Illinois, upon being hired by Millikin University to lead the Big Blue as head coach.

Coach Villafranco also began playing tennis at a young age, starting in elementary school. His mother was the middle school tennis coach, so he was exposed to the game after sitting courtside waiting for her to finish practice with her team. Later, he finally decided to pick up a racquet. He continued to play throughout high school and then in college at Sul Ross State University. After his time as a player and undergraduate, he continued his education at Sul Ross State, earning a Master’s Degree while working as an assistant coach at the university.

Not only do the two Big Blue coaches have similar backgrounds when it comes to their love for the game, but they also have the same aspirations, goals and expectations for the tennis program.

“During my senior year as a player, we got a new coach,” Covington said. “This coach was a blessing for the program on and off the court, and made my last year worthwhile as a player. I hope to bring the same to my players here at Millikin.”

Millikin’s tennis program has improved exceptionally over the past four years under former head coach, Dustin Forman. Now, with coaches Covington and Villafranco, the players couldn’t be more excited about the future for the team with such committed and talented new coaches now leading the program.

“I admire Coach Covington for bringing intensity and dedication to the Millikin tennis program,” Molly Angell, a co-captain on the team, who is beginning her fourth year competing in the Big Blue tennis program, said. “She is giving her all to this program and ready to help expand our name in the conference.”

Villafranco and Covington both see the talent and intensity of both the men’s and women’s teams in the program.

“Every coach’s goal is to come back stronger than the year before, and that’s what we hope to see,” said Villafranco. “Our goals as coaches are to make this a family environment and place top three in the conference, taking us to nationals.”

The other senior co-captain, Melissa Donovan, also a four-year starter in the program, is optimistic about her final season at Millikin.

“I believe our coaches will bring a lot of new and different ideas that will help shape our program for the better,” Donovan said. “This year is the strongest we have been as a women’s tennis team, and I can’t wait to see what we do this season.”

Other than expecting to help and push their team to be the best version of themselves on and off the court, the coaches hope to see them improve their game between the lines.

“I want everyone to improve a little bit as players, come out stronger and better on the court,” Covington said. “I also want the girls and guys to finish top three in our conference, it’s very doable and I know this team can do it.”

Both coaches agree that they love coaching and forming lifelong relationships, while positively impacting the lives of their players. They also strive to bring an atmosphere that is enjoyable and fun.

“You play better when it’s fun and everyone is getting along,” Villafranco said. “When you love coming to practice, and love who you are playing with on the court, happiness and having fun is what it’s all about.”

In just a few weeks, the impact the new coaches are making is already apparent as they work toward making this an unforgettable year for the Millikin tennis program.

“They will do anything to be there for us on and off the court,” Kelly Ruane said. “They are the types of coaches that make a difference in a player wanting to be at every practice and work out. They are supportive, understanding, motivating, and challenge us every day. I am beyond grateful to have them here for my senior year.”

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New to the Big Blue