Former Tennis: Tennis star joined by 9 others in Cajun Hall of Fame class
Bruce Brown, The Advertiser, Nov. 1, 2019
Former UL tennis star Ashley Rhoney is shown at City Club in River Ranch in 2010. Rhoney will be among the new Cajun Hall of Fame inductees this weekend at homecoming. (Photo: Advertiser file photo)
UL officials didn't have to go far to deliver the good news to Ashley Rhoney that he was among those to be honored this weekend as new members of the Ragin' Cajun Athletic Hall of Fame.
As he has been for the last 18 years, Rhoney was right down Camellia Boulevard in his role as tennis director for City Club in River Ranch.
“Jeff Maggert, Ken Myer and Robert Daigle came to the club and told me about the selection,” said Rhoney, who paired with fellow honoree Bret Garnett to form an All-American doubles team in 1987 and 1988.
“It's an honor to go in with Bret. We did a lot of things together. We depended on each other in big matches. There were a lot of tough matches, but we would fight together side-by-side.”
Rhoney and Garnett will be recognized at halftime of Saturday's homecoming game at Cajun Field, along with inductees Stephanie DeFeo and Kathy Morton of softball, baseball pitcher Jose Alvarez, football's Ike Taylor, volleyball's Priscilla Lima, late track and field coach Charles Lancon, and world champion trampolinist Leigh Hennessy and her late father, coach Jeff Hennessy.
“Wow, there sure were some big moments,” Rhoney said. “When I was a freshman, I beat David Edges of Trinity, who was No. 5 in the country at the time, in the Rolex tournament.
“Probably my most satisfying win came over Wayne Hearn when we beat North Carolina. He was a senior and I was a freshman. I was from North Carolina (Hickory) and they snubbed me. It was kind of a personal vendetta for me. We beat them twice.
“There were a lot of key moments like that.”
Rhoney and Garnett were ranked No. 1 in the nation in 1987 and No. 2 in 1988, leading the 1988 Cajuns to a first-ever team berth in the NCAA Tournament.
“Bret and I beat Shelby Cannon and Byron Talbot of Tennessee,” Rhoney said. “It was No. 1 vs. No. 2, a great match. That was probably our best moment,”
Those Cajuns were coached by Gary Albertine, who led them to new heights.
“He was awesome, a perfect fit for us,” Rhoney said. “It was unbelievable that he was able to recruit three Southern champions to UL. He handled us very well. He was tough but that was exactly what we needed.
“Coach busted our butts, but as we got older he let up … a little bit.”
Albertine provided Rhoney with a nugget of truth that he has found useful in his years as a teaching pro.
“We were at practice one day, and he asked a simple question to one of our players, who didn't know the answer. Gary turned to me and said, 'Just because someone has talent, don't ever assume they know everything,'
“That was valuable to me when I was coaching Chanda Rubin. She was a top-ranked junior and your instinct is to assume she knows everything, But I learned you could talk to her about strategic values and points.”
The 54-year old Rhoney still enjoys special connections with students willing to learn.
“When I'm teaching somebody, and something I say or do translates for them, I see I've touched a nerve,” he said. “That light bulb goes off and they get it. It's more about the puzzle. You find the right packaging. It's a little bit of a quest.
“I still love it when you've had that 'Aha!' moment.”
Rhoney was 71-48 in singles, 63-32 in doubles (134-80 overall) at UL, while Garnett was 65-39 against opponents' top talent. A twist of faith finds Garnett the pro at Lake Hickory Country Club in Rhoney's hometown.
Now, as UL Hall of Fame members, they remain a dynamic duo.
Other 2019 Hall of Fame inductees
Charles Lancon – The 1959 SLI graduate coached track and field from 1990-2002, taking a program that had not won a conference crown since 1970 and winning 17 men's and women's crowns. His 1993 squads won an unprecedented sweep of men's and women's Sun Belt titles both indoors and outdoors. A 14-time Coach of the Year honoree.
Jeff Hennessy, Leigh Hennessy – The father-daughter pair ruled trampoline competition in the 1970s. Coaching from 1964-80, Hennessy led his USA team to nine world titles. Leigh was a five-time National AAU All-American, a 10-time U.S. Champion and twice world champion.
Jose Alvarez – Alvarez pitched for UL baseball in 1977 and 1978, leading the team in wins and strikeouts, highlighted by a 10-strikeout no-hit 11-0 win over Texas-Arlington in 1978 when he was Southland Conference Pitcher of the Year. He went on to pitch in the major leagues.
Stephanie DeFeo – Dubbed “Downtown DeFeo” for her home run hitting prowess, DeFeo was a three-time softball All-American from 1994-97. She slammed 43 career home runs, had a .676 slugging percentage and 187 runs batted in. Now head coach at Mercer, she hit .383 for her career after posting a gaudy .739 slugging percentage as a freshman.
Kathy Morton – Morton was a softball All-American in 1994 and 1995 and posted back-to-back .400 seasons at the plate. She was named to the All-Tournament Team at the 1993 Women's College World Series and hit a school record 23 doubles in 1994.
Priscilla Lima – The Brazilian native translated her beach volleyball skills to the traditional game to shine for the Cajun women from 1999-2002. She stills ranks in the school's top 5 in single season kills (381), attack attempts (1,006) and points (448.5). She finished with 1,228 kills and 1,187 digs.
Ike Taylor – Cornerback Taylor helped the Pittsburgh Steelers to their sixth Super Bowl title with 8 tackles in a 27-23 win over Arizona in Super Bowl XLIII, playing on two title teams in a 12-year NFL career. The speedy former running back finished his 12 year NFL career with 636 tackles and 14 interceptions.
Athletic Network footnote by Dr. Ed Dugas.
L-R: Dr. Al Simon, Mary Arnie, Ashley Rhoney, Diane Lowings, Bill Phillips, Dr. Ed Dugas - 1992 Heart Tennis Event - Tennis 'Till It Hurts at Red Lerille's to benefit the American Heart Association.