Women’s tennis team gets coach of their own

St. John's alum Lauren Leo is the new head coach of the women's tennis team (Photo: Athletic Communications)

St. John’s alum Lauren Leo is the new head coach of the women’s tennis team (Photo: Athletic Communications)

Carmine Carcieri, Staff Writer

Since graduating from St. John’s and finishing a successful playing career on the court, Lauren Leo has had her sights set on possibly returning to the Red Storm as head coach of the women’s tennis team.

Eight years later, Leo has finally achieved her goal, as she was hired in August to be the 15th head coach in the program’s history.

“Once I graduate, I realized I had such a good experience here that I wanted to get back to the school,” coach Leo said. “I was fortunate enough to have this opportunity now.”

Leo, who achieved a successful 48-29 record, played both singles and doubles for the Johnnies from 2003 to 2007 while also building strong relationships that helped make the transition from player to coach much smoother.

“It’s like coming back to family,” coach Leo said. “There’s a lot of people still here that were apart of the University when I was a player and the support from the administration is just great.”

Before the position opened in Queens, the Staten Island native gained valuable experience working as the head coach at Hunter College in 2008 and 2009, as well as earning a spot on the Adelphi University coaching staff.

Leo, who started as an assistant, led Adelphi to a 17-6 record, a share of the 2012 Northeast-10 Conference Championship and a trip to the 2012 NCAA Division II Tennis Championship.

Leo’s success, early in her career, translated into a job in Hempstead, where she served as the Director of Tennis from 2013-15 for Hofstra University. She oversaw a steady program that had five athletes earn All-Colonial Athletic Association honors and two athletes earn All-CAA Academic Team honors.

Following the stint with the Hofstra Pride, the time was finally right for Leo to pursue the job at her alma mater as St. John’s was looking for a new leader for their women’s team.

“I knew they were looking for a coach,” coach Leo said. “I went out to get some feelers, just to see where everyone was at, and I was lucky enough to get the position. Just being a graduate of the school and seeing where I can take the program makes it special.”

Leo’s ability to relate to her players has translated into early success during the fall season and, with plenty of talent returning, expectations are high in Queens.

“They had a taste (last year by finishing second in the Big East) so I know they are very hungry this year,” coach Leo said. “First and foremost is to play well and fight hard on the court. Stay focused and stay disciplined.”

“If we follow the path we’re on, good things will happen. I don’t like to jump forward but it would be very nice to win the Big East.”

A dream has finally become a reality for coach Leo and a chance at a conference title will make her return home that much sweeter.