JONESBORO, Ark. (10/10/13) – Arkansas State continues its “Throwback Thursday” segment on its athletics Web Site, AStateRedWolves.com, with former women’s tennis player and coach Marcia Gibson Williams as the 10th former student-athlete to be profiled. “Throwback Thursday” highlights former A-State student-athletes and their current endeavors. The segment provides readers with biographical information on the former student-athlete and features a question-and-answer session, including questions about their time at Arkansas State and their current career.
As a player, she won the Arkansas Women’s Intercollegiate Sports Association (AWISA) singles title three seasons (1977-79) and recorded a runner-up finish in 1980. In 1978, she won the Region IV singles and finished seventh in the national tournament. She was also an accomplished doubles player as she was a part of three AWISA runner-up finishes in doubles from 1978-80. After her playing days were completed, she took over as Arkansas State’s women’s tennis coach in 1981. She compiled a 339-238 (.588) all-time record and oversaw A-State’s women’s tennis program that competed in four different conferences. Under her direction, Arkansas State finished second in the Sun Belt twice and American South once and also finished in the top four of the conference 17 times. She was also known for having excellent academic teams as Arkansas State was selected as an ITA All-Academic Team every year from 1999 until she retired after the 2011 season. She was inducted into the Arkansas State Athletic Hall of Honor in 1993.
Q & A Session with Marcia Williams
What were the main factors in your decision to attend Arkansas State?
The Women’s Athletic Director and tennis coach at the time, Kay Woodiel, offered me a tuition scholarship. Women’s tennis scholarships were very rare at the time so I thought that was great and I decided to accept. Plus, Arkansas State University was only 3 miles from my house and being close to my parents was ideal for me.
Was there anything that really stood out about the tennis program at Arkansas State at that time?
I was the only person on a tennis scholarship until ASU needed to get Becky Wiskotoni, a basketball player from Indiana. She could also play tennis so ASU put together a scholarship package to bring her in. We were not NCAA Division I, but were in the AWISA-Arkansas Women’s Intercollegiate Sports Association. Our conference included all the universities in the state except the University of Arkansas. UALR was our big rival.
What are some of your best memories from your playing days at Arkansas State?
One of my best memories was beating Ann Forney my freshman year in the finals of the conference tournament at Burns Park. In junior tennis, I was ranked #3 in Arkansas in girls’ 18s and Ann was ranked #1. I hadn’t ever picked up a racquet until I was 15 years old. Ann had been playing for years and I really looked up to her. I couldn’t have been happier! The next year, after the conference tournament, we went to regionals. Regionals were new so it wasn’t well attended to be honest, but I won the regionals that year, too! I was in heaven!
What led to you being named head coach the year after you graduated?
The ASU tennis coach while I played was a graduate assistant. She received her master’s degree and left. Kay Woodiel actually wanted me to get my master’s degree as well, but I didn’t want to so she just offered me the same amount of money that it cost to get a master’s degree.
What are some of your best memories from coaching tennis at Arkansas State?
Coaching the teams that Kendra Meischner was on. One season we were 16-0 and ranked #50 in the country. If you are a coach, you are a very competitive person so it is hard to beat success. We never won the conference after we became Division I, but we did finish second. We also finished third several times. We weren’t fully funded at the time, but I was fortunate enough to have recruited five girls who could have played #1 for us so we were pretty good. We won a doubles tournament at the University of Alabama, twice, against excellent opponents each time. We won doubles and singles divisions at the University of Houston against good competition. And, we also had other outstanding individual players on other teams I coached.
How much do you keep up with the tennis program now?
Arkansas State head women’s tennis coach Marina Engelbrecht is like my third child! I keep up with it very closely.
Coach Engelbrecht played for you, so do you have any stories you’d like to share about her?
Marina was physically the toughest player who ever played for me. She loved competing, she loved winning, and she improved tremendously during her time here. She was all-conference in singles two years. At that time only six girls in the whole conference made all-conference in singles. There was no first team and second team, etc. So, she was one of the six best girls in the conference, period. I guess a good example of how she competed was at a match at Samford University. It had rained the night before and someone had left a blower that was used to get the water off the court at the side of the court by the fence. Marina was playing doubles and her partner kept forgetting to switch sides when Marina crossed over. So, Marina was running herself to death and her partner was standing around observing the action. Finally, the opponents hit a ball way over to one side near the net and the side fence. Without even considering that she might need to stop because there was a fence, she ran as hard as she could to get the ball and ran right into the blower. She cut her calf pretty deeply, and we were relieved that she didn’t tear any muscles. And, of course, she finished the match!
What do you do now?
My husband took a job as the director of the YMCA in Greenville, Miss. I teach kindergarten in Greenville and I love it! The kids this age love you no matter what.