Sunday, July 21, 2024

William & Mary picks former assistant as next women’s tennis coach

Former assistant Toni Bickford is returning to her alma matter as the head coach of the Tribe’s women’s tennis team. Athletic Director Samantha K. Huge announced Monday.

Bickford, who is an associate head coach at Old Dominion University and has 16 years of coaching experience, served as an assistant from 2008-11. She will be the Tribe’s 10th women’s tennis head coach.

“Toni Bickford is uniquely qualified to lead our highly-successful women’s tennis program,” Huge said. “Having previously enjoyed success at William & Mary, she understands the university and our culture, and the value we place on life after graduation for our student-athletes. Toni has experience at the highest level of the sport and a track record of developing high-achieving student-athletes. We are excited to welcome Toni back and our tennis program is in good hands for years to come.”

Twice during her career, Bickford was named the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Atlantic Region Assistant Coach of the Year, including last season after helping guide Old Dominion to its highest national ranking since 2001. In her time as an assistant and associate head coach, which included stops at Iowa and ODU, Bickford has helped teams to a combined 216-146 record with 46 nationally-ranked wins. Her programs have finished in the ITA national ranking during 12 of her 16 years as an assistant and advanced to the NCAA Tournament on four occasions.

“I want to thank Director of Athletics Samantha Huge, Associate Athletics Director Peel Hawthorne and the entire search committee for giving me the incredible opportunity to become part of the Tribe again,” Bickford said. “William & Mary tennis has a history of tremendous success. That, combined with the academic reputation of the university, makes it a perfect place for any coach or student-athlete to thrive. I’m excited to get to work with this extremely talented group of young women, and I can’t wait to begin our journey.”

Individually, Bickford-coached players have earned 51 total all-conference honors, including 24 first-team accolades. She has coached four NCAA individual championship selections, four conference rookies of the year, two ITA Region Cissie Leary Award for Sportsmanship winners, an ITA region rookie of the year and an ITA region senior player of the year.

Toni Bickford (WYDaily photo/Courtesy ODU Sports)
Toni Bickford (WYDaily photo/Courtesy ODU Sports)

Inducted into the Iowa Athletics Hall of Fame as a player in 2017, Bickford returns to Williamsburg after spending the last seven years as the associate head coach at ODU and helping the program to success both on the court and in the classroom.

Last season, the Monarchs achieved its highest end of the year national ranking (No. 48) in 17 years. ODU reached as high as No. 35 in the country and posted an impressive 19-5 record. Included in its success was a triumph over ACC power Virginia, who finished the year ranked No. 23 nationally.

Academically, ODU received the ITA All-Academic Team award for the second time during her tenure and produced team GPAs of 3.48 during the fall semester and 3.54 in the spring semester. During her career in Norfolk, ODU totaled a 98-55 record and had 29 all-conference performers between singles and doubles.

As an assistant at W&M, Bickford helped the Tribe to 40 victories, including 18 over ranked teams and 10 against Power 5 Conference opponents. W&M finished each of her three seasons in the national rankings, including twice inside the top 50. The Tribe won the Colonial Athletic Association Championship during her final season in 2011 and finished ranked No. 44 in the country thanks to a 16-9 record.

W&M players earned All-CAA honors on 15 occasions in her three years, including seven first-team nods. Academically, the program earned two ITA All-Academic Team honors, while nine players received W&M Provost Awards, eight garnered ITA Scholar-Athlete distinction and one was named the CAA Scholar-Athlete of the Year.

Prior to joining the Tribe as an assistant coach, Bickford spent six seasons at her alma mater Iowa as an assistant coach. The Hawkeyes compiled a 78-59 mark, including a 36-24 Big Ten ledger, during her tenure with 20 nationally ranked wins and finished inside the national rankings in in all six seasons. Iowa advanced to the NCAA tournament on three occasions. In 2006, the Hawkeyes went 18-6, including a program-record 9-1 Big Ten mark, and achieved a final national ranking of No. 33.

As a player for the Hawkeyes, Bickford was named Big Ten freshman of the year in 1999 and went on to earn All-Big Ten First Team honors from 1999-2002. She helped Iowa to the NCAA round of 16 in 1999 and a final national ranking inside the top 25.

Bickford and teammate Shera Wiegler became the first doubles team in program history to compete in the NCAA tournament in 1999. They made a return appearance in 2000 and, in 2002, Bickford became the first Hawkeye in program history to compete in the singles tournament at the NCAA championships. She was inducted into the Iowa Athletics Hall of Fame in 2017.

Bickford won 12 junior Bulgarian National titles between singles and doubles from 1990-97. She was a member of the 1998 Bulgarian Fed Cup team and achieved a world singles ranking of No. 650 according to the WTA in 1998.

The Tribe women’s tennis program is storied both in the CAA and nationally. W&M has won 26 of the CAA’s 34 all-time women’s tennis championships and finished the year ranked No. 1 in its ITA region on 14 occasions. In total, the Tribe has advanced to the NCAA Tournament on 23 occasions, including 19 of the last 24 years, and ranks 20th in the country in appearances.

W&M’s 21 NCAA tournament wins, which includes an 18-11 regional mark, is 24th nationally and second among programs outside the Power 5 Conferences. On seven occasions, W&M advanced to the round of 16 at the NCAA Championship, including back-to-back quarterfinal appearances in 1997 and 1998. W&M finished ranked among the national top 20 in 12 seasons since 1990. In all, 13 different athletes have captured 26 All-America honors for the Tribe.

Bryan DeVasher
Bryan DeVasher
Bryan DeVasher is the managing editor-digital of WYDaily. A resident of Hampton Roads for more than two decades, he has worked for news organizations in Virginia, Illinois, Missouri and Indiana. He most recently was a member of the public relations staff for Virginia State Police.

Related Articles