The Sewanee Tennis program has remained one of the most successful and victorious athletic programs in the school’s history. In the past forty years, the women’s team has gone on to win several conference championships and advanced to the NCAA Regionals 26 times, leading them to become one of the most acknowledged and competitive programs in all of Division III. Three seasons in particular though, (1990, 1999, and 2007) have gone down in Sewanee’s history as the most successful teams. These include seven individuals who have been inducted into the Sewanee Athletics Hall of Fame over the years. One of the seven individuals and one of the most successful tennis players in Tiger History, Cameron Tyer, has paved the way and helped establish the program we know today.
Tyer has gone on to remain one the most decorated Sewanee Tennis players in the school’s history, being a four-year All-American (three Singles and three Doubles), ITA National Senior Player of the Year (1993), ITA Postgraduate Scholar, and a two-time member of the Sewanee Athletics Hall of Fame (team and individual). Her journey to success began as soon as she stepped foot on campus, being the only freshman on the 1990 team that would go on to be ranked fourth nationally in Division III, and as a team be inducted into the Sewanee Athletics Hall of Fame. By her senior year, with many accolades already under her belt, Tyer was awarded the National Senior Player of the Year award, a ceremony she had to miss due to her own graduation ceremony.
“I had to pick between graduation and nationals because they were at the same time,” Tyer says, “So I flew up and played team nationals because I didn’t want to let my team down. But then I had to make the call and pull out of the individual competition. That was actually a pretty easy decision. While I realized that it was probably the last tennis tournament I was going to play, I also realized that you only get one college graduation!”. Luckily Conchie was there to accept on my behalf, which is fitting since she was such a large part of why I received that award.
Tyer attributes a lot of her success to her love for Sewanee and her coaches, Conchie and John Shackelford, who remain key figures in the Sewanee athletic program today. Conchie Shakleford, the head coach of the women’s team, has led the program to over 600 wins, becoming the first NCAA Division III women’s tennis coach to do so, and the winningest coach in the history of Sewanee athletics. Her husband John coached the men’s team for 33 years, and as of last year, has been appointed the director of athletics for the University.
“The whole experience at Sewanee was a life changer,” Tyer states. “The experience of being part of that team of such amazing women, and learning from Conchie and John Shackelford, forever changed me, and truly shifted the trajectory of my life in such a positive way that I cannot overstate.”
To this day, the 1990 women’s team are still the closest of friends, and Tyer’s two daughters, Nelson Tyer Jones (C ‘22) and Bradley Tyer Jones (C ‘25), have followed in their mother’s footsteps, continuing the Tyer legacy on the tennis courts at Sewanee.
“It really is unbelievable. It brings home that Sewanee is a home, and I couldn’t feel more safe with my kids there. There is a continuity and a comfort there and so I know they are in good hands.”