Pennington leading Colgate to better days

Colgate University just wrapped up its season for men’s and women’s tennis, and both squads concluded with a loss in the quarterfinals of the Patriot League Tournament.

The head coach for both teams is Altoona Area High school graduate Bobby Pennington.

The women suffered a 4-0 setback to Army, while the men ended their season a week later with a 4-0 loss to Lehigh.

Pennington was named to the position in July 2006, and has made steady strides ever since.

In his eighth season at the Hamilton, N.Y. campus, Pennington has gone 72-81 with the men and 69-83 on the women’s side.

One of the highlights of his career to this point came just a few a weeks ago when the men’s squad beat perennial Patriot League power Navy for just the second time in school history – the first during his tenure.

The men, picked to finish sixth in the preseason league standings, finished fifth with a 4-3 record.

“We [men’s team] surprised a lot of people,” Pennington said. “We were literally within points of being 12-6. We have a great group of senior captains and we had five freshmen who can really play.”

The women ended up seventh at 1-4 after being predicted in the fifth spot.

“We’ve had some really tough injuries on the women’s side,”Pennington said. “Six of eight are either freshmen or sophomores. We preached staying the course. They’ve fought really hard and didn’t give up.”

Despite having never taken home the regular season or postseason tournament titles for either team, Pennington remains upbeat about where the program is headed.

“The culture and energy is great in the program,” Pennington said. “They play really hard for me. They bring it every match, and they play with a lot of emotion and energy.”

Getting the right kids into the program is half the battle for the former Kalamazoo (Mich.) College standout.

“You have to recruit well, and have the kids buy into the program,” Pennington said. “The kids we’ve brought in, have done that.

“What makes our teams so cool, is that our guys are cheering their brains out for each other from the stands. Even the guys not playing, they are really vocal and really loud. They really play for each other.”

Though the Raiders have never reached the league championship matches, they’ve come close a few times under Pennington’s watch.

“That would be the ultimate – earning an automatic bid to the NCAA [tournament],” Pennington said. “I’ve been to the semifinals a bunch of times.”

Pennington, who started the Colgate Nike Tennis Camp in 2011, is just one of three coaches in the Patriot League who coach both the men and women.

“It’s challenging coaching both programs, but I have two great assistants who have played Division I tennis in Jaime Scott [University of Wyoming] and A.J. Nelson [University of Richmond],” Pennington said. “It’s a ton of work, but we do a lot of doubleheaders, so both teams are together a lot.”

Aside from his improving success on the court, Pennington has been married for two years to Jenny, a former professional snowboarder. The couple have a 1-year-old daughter, Mia.

Pennington still has the desire to coach each day, and that is what drives the former District 6 champ, despite the hectic schedule.

“It’s been an interesting eight years, and I still have an incredible passion not only for the sport but for the teams that I coach,” Pennington said.