by Cory Guinn
WILSON, N.C. – Lee Underwood, a tennis coach with 26 years of coaching experience and 575 career victories to his credit, has been selected by Barton College as the next head coach of the men's and women's tennis teams, school officials announced Monday.
"I am delighted that Lee Underwood has accepted the head tennis coaching position," said Todd Wilkinson, Barton's director of athletics. "Coach Underwood's long and highly decorated career will be a tremendous asset to the Barton tennis teams and the Wilson community. He is a proven coach that knows the grind and commitment needed to be successful."
Underwood was most recently the head coach at NCAA Division II Edinboro University for seven seasons where he resurrected a program that began competition in 2010-11 after a seven-year absence from the court.
During his time in charge of the Fighting Scots, Underwood compiled a total of 169 wins across the men's and women's programs, appearing in the NCAA Tournament five times and earning seven coach of the year awards, including being named the ITA Atlantic Region Men's Coach of the Year in 2013.
He was the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference coach of the year for four consecutive seasons and was both the men's and women's coach of the year in 2017 following a season in which both programs reached the NCAA Tournament Round of 64.
Before working with Edinboro, Underwood spent six years at West Virginia Wesleyan College where he totaled 134 wins on the court and made five trips to the NCAA Tournament. He won four total West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference titles and was a five-time coach of the year award winner.
Underwood's coaching career began at his alma mater, Davis & Elkins College, in 1991 and continued through 2004. He was a two-time WVIAC Coach of the Year for the Senators and left as the winningest tennis coach in Davis & Elkins history with 272 victories.
"Coach Underwood knows Division II tennis and he is a proven winner," said Wilkinson. "He will recruit and develop young men and women of strong character, academic excellence, and talented tennis players. He is passionate about his profession and shows a strong desire to lead our tennis program. He will build on the history of excellent tennis at Barton College. Barton tennis is in great hands going forward."
At Barton, Underwood will take over a men's and women's program that each had success in the last year, including a men's team that finished the 2017 season ranked No. 40 overall.
The Barton men were 15-9 overall last season, winning its second Conference Carolinas Tournament title and defeating Queens University of Charlotte in the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional. The women's program totaled 12 wins a year ago and finished as the Conference Carolina Tournament runner-up in the postseason. In all, 15 players return to the tennis program for Underwood, including two all-conference women's players in Vanessa Sanoja and Marissa Stevenson.
"Having prior knowledge of Barton and having played against them in early 2000s, I knew they had been successful for a number of years," Underwood said. "The level of competition in Conference Carolinas is something I am familiar with and have played against a number of schools in the league. We also have family in the area, and my wife and I have always thought North Carolina would be a good home for us."
Underwood graduated from Davis & Elkins with a bachelor's degree in Health & Physical Education in 1991. He later earned his master's degree in Physical Education from West Virginia University in 1996. He and his wife Cherie have three children – Olivia, Hunter and Jarrod.
"I want my teams to produce a good product in the classroom and on the court," Underwood said. "I want my players to be immersed in the Wilson tennis community across all levels of competition with clinics, tournaments and fundraisers.
"This is a unique experience for me to inherit a team that has had so much success, as I have typically been the guy to raise programs from their lowest points to heights they have never experienced. My goal is always to win conference championships and appear in the NCAA postseason. We are going to have success and probably make some mistakes, but we will grow as a team and as human beings."