Given his extensive experience at academically elite schools, Gordie Ernst should be the perfect fit for the Georgetown tennis program. Still, he is eager to take on the unique challenges of his first year coaching on the Hilltop.

Ernst brings a wealth of collegiate tennis knowledge to the struggling Georgetown teams. He played college tennis at Brown University before going on to serve as an assistant coach at Northwestern University and then as head coach at the University of Pennsylvania.

Ernst has an impressive resume, but more importantly, he knows how to succeed. In high school, he won four Rhode Island state titles in both singles and doubles. After college, he was drafted into the NHL but elected to stay off the ice and stick with tennis, playing four years on the Association of Tennis Professionals tour. At Northwestern, his team was ranked 13th in the nation, and during his time as the head honcho at Penn, the Quakers beat Ivy League powerhouses Brown, Dartmouth and Yale. Ernst also coached Fanda Stejskal, who made it to the NCAA tournament.

So how did his career path lead him to the nation’s capital and a school with little tennis success in recent years?

Ernst was hired in late February 2006 and took over the coaching reins in the fall. Despite arriving with only a month to recruit, he managed to bring in three freshmen – Will Lowell, Anthony Tan and David Tillem – who have taken their spots in the top seven in his rotation and should remain there for years to come. Ernst’s squad also benefits from junior transfer Jeff Schnell, who captained the American University team that won the Patriot League last year and will play a major role in both the Hoyas’ singles and doubles efforts this spring.

“I came here to coach a great group of guys who are excited about the thought of turning a losing team into a winning team,” Ernst says.

Ernst wants to bring more ranked players to Georgetown, but has also stressed his belief that recruits have good character and be willing to work hard. “Instead of going to Harvard or Stanford, we want top-ranked student athletes to come here,” he says.

Ernst doesn’t have scholarships to offer recruits, but that does not mean the team can’t compete with top-flight programs.

“In tennis, sometimes you can pull off wins by wanting it more, being in better shape and playing big points well,” Ernst says.

In addition to upping the recruiting efforts, Ernst has brought structure and efficiency to practices.

“[There is] more competition, more putting them into pressure situations in practice where they have to respond if they want to play in a particular match,” Ernst says. “They have to be able to play with pressure to be able to play against another team when there is plenty of pressure.”

His hiring to coach both the men’s and women’s sides at Georgetown marks the first time Ernst has coached women’s college tennis. Following the women’s opener at the Virginia Commonwealth 4+1 tournament this past weekend, Ernst said he was pleased with the team he inherited.

“They’re just a fun group of girls who all get along so well,” Ernst said.

This weekend marks the opening of the dual-match season for the men and women, and both squads are eager to turn Ernst’s guidance into success on the court. Ernst will be busy with three dual matches between the two teams in a span of two days.

The women open at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday as they play host to James Madison at the Army-Navy Country Club in Arlington, Va.

The men play their first dual match of the season Friday at 3 p.m. against Maryland at the Tennis Center in College Park, Md. They will have little time to dwell on the result, as they travel to Annapolis, Md., for a noon match Saturday against Navy.

“I think we’re going to be in serious battles this weekend, especially with Navy,” Ernst said.

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