Jonathan Zych, the longest-tenured and winningest head coach in Saint Louis men’s and women’s tennis history, serves as head coach of the Billiken teams for an 18th season during the 2018-19 campaign.
Zych owns 204 victories in women's competition and 146 wins with the men's squad. He collected his 350th win at SLU April 26, 2018, when the Billiken men defeated Fordham 4-0 in the Atlantic 10 Conference Championship first round. His 200th women’s victory was a 5-2 triumph over Illinois-Springfield Feb. 16, 2018.
The recipient of the 2014 Billiken Spirit Award from SLU’s Division of Student Development, Zych has guided the Saint Louis women to a winning record in 10 of the past 11 seasons and a double-digit victory total in 12 of the past 13 campaigns. The 2016-17 Billikens were 16-8 and advanced to the A-10 Championship semifinals.
The Billiken women have averaged 13.5 wins during the past 13 seasons, including a school-record 20 victories in 2015-16. SLU’s .800 winning percentage (20-5) in 2015-16 is the second-best mark in program annals. The 2015-16 campaign also saw Saint Louis produce a program-record 12-match winning streak.
Saint Louis experienced its greatest success in conference tournament play in 2014. After drawing the No. 2 seed for the A-10 Championship – the highest seeding in program history – the Billikens claimed the runner-up spot for a second time, joining the 2011 squad.
Under Zych’s guidance, the SLU women have placed three players on the All-Conference team in five of the past nine seasons. In 2017, Aspen Cervin (first team), Eleonore Tchakarova (first team) and Verginie Tchakarova (second team) accomplished the feat for a second consecutive season. Cervin became the first Saint Louis tennis player to collect first-team All-Conference accolades four times and joined Hailee Elmore (first team three times, second team once) as the only Billikens to be selected to four All-Conference squads.
In 2016, Cervin became the second Billiken to garner A-10 Most Outstanding Performer accolades, joining Elmore (2010, 2011).
In all, Zych has coached 13 players, including 2018 first-team pick Cassie McKenzie, who have combined to collect A-10 All-Conference accolades 28 times. The selection of McKenzie gave Saint Louis at least one first-team honoree in 11 consecutive seasons. Cervin and Stephanie Hollis were named the A-10’s Most Outstanding Rookie Performer in 2014 and 2011, respectively.
Also in 2011, Elmore became the first Billiken tennis player to earn Academic All-America laurels (third team) from the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) and was the A-10 women’s tennis Student-Athlete of the Year. Additionally, she was one of two A-10 nominees for the NCAA Woman of the Year award, a recipient of an A-10 Postgraduate Scholarship, SLU's Outstanding Female Senior Student-Athlete (joining Julie Siemers in 2002; Siemers also was the 2002 Conference USA Scholar-Athlete of the Year), and the first Billiken women’s tennis player to earn a national ranking. Jenny Nalepa followed Elmore as an A-10 Postgraduate Scholarship winner in 2012.
The 2015-16 Billiken women compiled the highest grade point average (3.685) among the University’s 18 intercollegiate athletics teams, a feat accomplished by SLU women’s tennis in six consecutive years (2006-07 through 2011-12). Since Zych became head coach, 13 players have combined to earn A-10 All-Academic honors and/or the Conference USA Academic Medal a total of 21 times.
The six-player A-10 All-Academic team has included at least one SLU student-athlete in 10 of the University’s 13 years as a league member, including nine of the past 10 seasons. Cervin and the Tchakarova sisters were selected All-Academic in 2017, giving the Billikens three honorees for the first time. SLU has been named an All-Academic team by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association in each of the past eight years, and Billiken student-athletes have combined to earn ITA Scholar-Athlete recognition 36 times during that period. Zych also has seen his players garner five CoSIDA Academic All-District selections.
On the men’s side, the 2017 Billikens took eventual league champion VCU to the wire in the A-10 Championship quarterfinals before being edged 4-3.
Between 2008 and 2010, the Billikens posted three successive winning records for the first time ever and three consecutive double-digit victory totals for the second time in program history. The 2009 team was 14-7, tying for the program’s fourth-highest win total, and placed fourth at the A-10 Championship, Saint Louis’ best finish since joining the conference. Also in 2009, SLU tallied its best-ever regular-season winning percentage (13-5, .722). The Bills turned in solid fifth-place efforts in 2008 (with a No. 10 seeding) and 2010.
The 2008-10 seasons also were banner years for individual accolades. The Billikens placed three players on the All-Conference squad in each of those campaigns, and in 2009, the selection of James McArthur and Ken Nordheim to the A-10 first team gave Saint Louis men’s tennis two first-team honorees for the first time.
Thirteen of Zych’s players have combined to capture 21 All-Conference nods, including David Ferragut (first team) in 2018. Ferragut also was selected to the top All-Conference unit in 2016 and 2017, making him the first SLU men’s tennis player to earn first-team plaudits more than once.
On the academic front, men’s tennis led the Saint Louis athletics department in team GPA in the 2012-13 (3.562) and 2013-14 (3.604) academic years. The Billikens have garnered ITA All-Academic plaudits and have placed at least four student-athletes on the ITA Scholar-Athlete list in each of the past six years.
Nine Billikens have combined to earn A-10 All-Academic honors or the Conference USA Academic Medal a total of 15 times during Zych's tenure. The six-player A-10 All-Academic team has included at least one SLU student-athlete in seven of the past 12 seasons, and two Billikens were selected in 2007 and 2010. Ikaika Jobe was selected to the 2003 Academic All-District second team by CoSIDA.
Although Saint Louis is the first collegiate coaching stint for Zych, he was no stranger to the coaching realm prior to his arrival. He was promoted to head tennis professional after serving as assistant pro at Willow Knolls Country Club in Peoria, Illinois, and was assistant pro and later junior programs director at The Clubs at River City, also in Peoria. As junior programs director, Zych supervised more than 400 junior players. He has worked with four world-ranked players during his coaching career, and his top prodigy, Andrea Nathan, held a world ranking of 367 and was ranked among the top 50 U.S. professionals in 2001.
Since 1987, Zych has been involved with the Peoria Tennis Group, an organization that has raised $1.2 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital through the Marcia Stout Memorial St. Jude Tennis Classic. The tournament, named in memory of longtime St. Jude advocate Marcia Stout, has been the largest “tennis-only” contributor to the hospital since its inception. Zych hosted the event while serving as head tennis professional at Willow Knolls and has served in various fund-raising and volunteer capacities.
Zych had quite a playing career of his own. He starred at the University of Illinois, helping lead the Fighting Illini program through a transition that eventually lifted it from the depths of the Big Ten standings to a 2003 NCAA Triple Crown. Zych garnered the team’s Spirit Award and was nominated for Big Ten Tennis Sportsman of the Year plaudits and the Illinois Scholar-Athlete Spirit Award in his senior campaign. He compiled a 4-1 ledger at the Big Ten Championship that year to lead the Fighting Illini to fifth place. Zych was the team's Most Valuable Player as a junior.
Prior to his collegiate career, Zych made a name for himself on the national junior circuit before undergoing career-threatening spinal-fusion surgery. He patiently endured a three-year recovery period during which he was confined to a back brace from hip to neck for 18 months. After taking a medical hardship in his freshman year at Illinois, Zych earned three letters in tennis and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration/marketing in 1994.
Professionally, Zych competed in German club tennis and defeated world-ranked Holger Losch in 1995.
Zych has a certified professional (+) rating with the United States Professional Tennis Registry and is a member of the United States Tennis Association.