COLUMBIA — When Missouri tennis player Rachel Stuhlmann defeated the nation's No. 22 player Maho Kowase, on Jan. 28, her coach, Jason Potthoff, needed a moment to gather his emotions. After more than three years of training together across the country, the 6-3, 6-2 victory in Athens, Ga., gave the two a chance to celebrate their progress as a team.
Overwhelmed with pride, Potthoff stepped away from the court before returning to coach the other players.
"I was on the verge of getting choked up," he said. "This is by far the biggest stage she's been on. I just needed to sit down and gather myself."
The two have been training together since the fall of 2008, when Potthoff began coaching Stuhlmann at the John Newcombe Tennis Ranch in New Braunfels, Texas. When Missouri recruited Stuhlmann, she put in a good word for Potthoff. He then received a job offer from the Missouri tennis team to work as an assistant coach under Sasha Schmid, also in her first year.
In his new position, Potthoff maintains a special relationship with Stuhlmann.
“It was only fitting that he was there to congratulate her when she won match point,” Schmid said of Stuhlmann’s win over Kowase.
Stuhlmann, a sophomore, is playing at No.3 on the Missouri team, up from No. 6 a year ago. She attributes much of that success to Potthoff’s coaching.
“In the end, she knows deep down that she can trust me,” said Potthoff. “There’s no one I’m harder on. I don’t let her get away with anything.”
Stuhlmann learned the hard way that Potthoff is "always right," she said. “He would tell me ways to win a match and I would be stubborn, but once I started listening I’d be more successful. He knows more about tennis than anyone I know.”
Stuhlmann’s victory over Kowase was one of the highest singles wins in the history of Missouri's program, Schmid said. Although the team lost in its meeting with No. 6 Georgia, the Tigers recently upset No. 66 Fresno State and moved into the No. 72 spot in the national rankings.
The Tigers have their first home match of the season against Arkansas-Fort Smith at 10 a.m. Saturday. It will be the first home match for both Schmid and Potthoff.
“It’s going to be a first for a lot of people,” Potthoff said. “It’s going to be a big weekend for sports, and we’re just going to try to treat it like any other match.”