Thornton Helps Commodores Into Top Ten 2/5/02

Originally appeared in the January edition of the Flagship

Over the past two years, the Vanderbilt women's tennis program has reached new heights. In 2001, it finished the year with a No. 4 ranking, the highest in the program's history, and then advanced to the finals of the NCAA tournament.

This season, the Commodores debuted at No. 4 again and are set to make another run at a national championship. This run of success started two years ago, the same time David Thornton was hired as the team's assistant coach, and the two events did not overlap by coincidence.

Since Thornton has joined head coach Geoff Macdonald, the two have created one of the best coaching staff's in the country while leading the Commodores to new heights.

"David's coaching was instrumental in our reaching the national finals last year," states Macdonald. "He is exactly the type of coach that could help Vanderbilt go from good to great. He is passionate about improving ones self and is a good person as well."

Thornton, a native of Ireland, was the head coach at his alma mater, Middle Tennessee State, for six seasons before joining the Commodores in the summer of 2000. While leading the Lady Raiders to four Ohio Valley Conference championships, he was named OVC coach of the year three times.

Yet for Thornton, he felt the best chance to move his career forward was to join Macdonald's staff at Vanderbilt.

"I felt that in order for me to eventually be a head coach at a major program I needed to learn how to coach at the highest level," comments Thornton. "Coach Macdonald is doing that here and I have learned a lot from him. I feel we have pushed each other over the past two seasons and we have grown as a coaching staff."

Most of what Thornton brings to the Commodore program is not seen by fans who show up for matches. He spends countless hours with players doing individual workouts to improve their game.

"He has definitely helped me improve my game," states junior Sarah Riske, who ended the fall season ranked No. 27 in the nation. "He is a patient, down to earth, genuine person who will do anything for us. He helps us so much with strategy and improving our technique."

"I couldn't imagine the team without David," adds sophomore Kelly Schmandt. "The individual workouts really help us become better players. He compliments Coach Macdonald nicely."

The tandem that Thornton and Macdonald have formed as a coaching staff may be the secret to the success the Commodores have enjoyed over the past two years. Their sharing of ideas and cooperation as a staff comes from mutual respect for one another, not only as coaches, but as people.

"I don't view David as a typical assistant coach because he has had so much head coaching experience," says Macdonald. "He has a phenomenal amount of valuable insight. He is a really creative, productive coach and it has been a joy working with him."

Thornton is as quick to return the compliment.

"Every day I feel privileged to be part of this team and to be working with Geoff," states Thornton. "I think Geoff and I are on the same page, complimenting the enthusiasm, energy, and drive these girls have. You don't find that very often, but it is the ingredients for success."


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