ASU women's tennis head coach Sheila McInerney records historic 500th win

McInerney is the sixth coach in ASU history to reach the 500-win mark

At eight years old, Sheila McInerney picked up a racket and began playing tennis at the public park across the street from where she grew up. Today, she is one of ASU’s most accomplished and longest tenured coaches. 

On Feb. 17, the women’s tennis coach made ASU history after the Sun Devils swept Santa Clara 4-0 on home soil, making McInerney the sixth coach in ASU history to reach 500 wins.

“It was a lot of fun," graduate student assistant and former ASU tennis player, Alexandra Osborne, said. "Getting toward the end, we were about to close out the match, and it was incredible being able to announce it.” 

The team later poured water on McInerney's head and celebrated her accomplishment. 

“It’s cute – she really tries not to take credit for everything and goes, ‘oh, it’s you guys’ and when we are like, ‘congrats Sheila,' she goes, ‘it’s not me,'" junior Sammi Hampton said of her coach's accomplishment. “Its really cute to see because she's really proud but humble at the same time.”

McInerney has played in almost every realm of tennis including the collegiate level at the University of Southern California and the professional level, but she enjoyed the teamwork that came with collegiate-level tennis and knew she wanted to become a college coach.

“I really enjoyed my college experience. I had a great teammate and a great coach,” McInerney said. “I really enjoyed the team aspect of tennis and obviously, college tennis is the only time you get that team aspect.”

Throughout her career, McInerney has appeared in 32 NCAA Tournaments, eight NCAA Quarterfinals, 18 NCAA Sweet Sixteens and now has 500 wins. 

“When you have success, it’s always fun,” McInerney said. “(But) watching the kids mature and grow, going to a lot of their weddings and a lot of things like that (are my favorite memories)."

To the 34 years of women she coached, McInerney is more than just a coach – she is a mom, someone who keeps her players aiming for their best, and a motivator to keep them pushing through their worst.

“Honestly, she comes to practice every single day, and she has a ton of energy,” Hampton said. “Sometimes the practice gets stagnant, or the girls get tired, and for her to come to practice every single day with energy and (be) excited to be here and help us is really inspiring to me. It’s hard to be positive all the time, but she does it.” 

McInerney said that student athletes tend to become their own worst enemies, and as a coach, she’s learned to instill belief in her players, and make sure they enjoy their collegiate careers.

“She has been able to give me a lot of opportunities, not only on the court but off the court," Osborne said. "She really took a risk and really believed in my game and brought me to ASU, which I will forever be grateful for the opportunities I have had. Doors were opened because of her and to just be here is incredible.” 

McInerney motivates her athletes to take advantage of their time at ASU and do their best. However, as a former player and current graduate student manager, Ebony Panoho, said McInerney doesn’t put pressure on her players to be perfect – she just believes in integrity.

“She has shaped me as a person a lot," Panoho said. "I’ve been with her for almost six years as a player, then as a graduate assistant, and she has taught me so much, first as a tennis player then as a coach.”

There have not been many days in McInerney’s life when tennis hasn’t been on the schedule. Her passion for the game can be seen through her program and athletes.

“If you find a passion in life, then you feel like you haven’t worked a day in your life, and that’s how I feel,” McInerney said.

Reach the reporter at or follow @sophiabriseno on Twitter.

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