Feb. 4, 2014
The collegiate career of Aleke Tsoubanos began with a “magical little run” to the national championship match in 2001. By the time she left Vanderbilt as an All-American, she had contributed to trips to the Elite Eight and Final Four, as well. After playing World Team Tennis for her hometown team, the St. Louis Aces, she returned to her alma mater three years later as an assistant coach. Her husband, Jason, works at Vanderbilt as a mechanical engineer.
Commodore Nation: What was it like as a freshman to be part of a run to the national championship match (the first time any Vanderbilt sport had played for a national title)?
Aleke Tsoubanos: It was funny because we (as freshmen) didn’t know any better. We sort of just came in ,and we were just grateful of the opportunity to be (at Vanderbilt). We thought, “Wow, we really don’t want to screw this up.” We wanted to make Coach (Geoff Macdonald) feel good about bringing us to Vanderbilt and knew we had an incredible opportunity to be on scholarship here and represent women’s tennis. We almost kind of bought into early on, sort of, that we belonged. I think that was the first year we had advanced past a Sweet 16. I guess they had never really cracked through, and we really didn’t know about that. We showed up sort of clueless. All right, we’re going to compete really hard and try to get better. The next thing we knew we won that first match, and it was like—I didn’t know this—but a huge weight was lifted off everybody’s shoulders. Wow, we’re into the quarters.
The momentum continued, and the next thing we knew we were in this really heated match with (host) Georgia in the semis and found a way to pull it out. Huge underdog in that match, obviously. There were I don’t know how many Georgia fans, and I think we had our contingency of 20, 25 supporters of family, friends and staff from Vanderbilt who made the trip down. It was pretty awesome.
CN: What do you enjoy most about working at your alma mater?
Tsoubanos: Um, gosh. Most? Every year the team has been different. So trying to identify…what is your team identity going to be? Just trying to develop relationships with the girls because they are all so different. That is also the hardest part. It is enjoyable once you feel the connection with the team. But that can sometimes be the hardest part. For me, just being here is so much more meaningful because this was my school. There are not a lot of people who are fortunate enough to get the opportunity to go back and coach at the school they played at—in any sport.
CN: Outside of tennis, what do you like to do when you have free time?
Tsoubanos: I try to get out with my husband a little bit (and play tennis). He has been wanting to learn. I love to read, personally. It’s all fiction. I love James Patterson and Harlan Coben. Coach would tease me about this, but I like to travel. And not for tennis, but he jokes with me about jet-setting all the time. Endless teasing. “Where you going this week? Where you going this week?” I love traveling. I try to go to Greece almost every other year. I went this past summer. We’ve done Cancun. Barcelona is next. My husband got to go to for a conference. Anywhere you can get away. I love to cruise. I wanted to try to get one of those in, but I don’t know if that’s going to happen. And I love, love watching sports. I’m crazy about the (St. Louis) Cardinals. I’m a basket case from about mid-August on, watching playoff races. I love the Cardinals. If I could afford season tickets and get them I would do it.
CN: You mentioned Greece. Your last name—are you Greek?
Tsoubanos: I am. My parents were both born in Greece and came over when they were young. My siblings and I are first-generation born here. My mom has a little house in her village, so we usually go visit there for a little while and then try to go to the beach. There are some really cool beaches, not the ones everyone else knows about. Santorini and Mykonos. I’ve never been there. We go to the Ionian Islands, over on the west side of the mainland. They are really great. We go to an island called Lefkada and it is amazing. We will go spend five, six days there and just go to all different beaches around the island. It is so much fun.
CN: And you are expecting your first child, a boy?
Tsoubanos: Yes. March. Crazy. We are excited. We bought a new house. A lot of changes. I guess life just happens as they say. We are just taking one step at a time, and they are all happening really quickly. We’re really excited. We love Nashville. We have a really nice group of friends and feel like we know the city really well. It feels small, but it is a warm city and we feel really good about being at Vanderbilt. Invested here. We would love to stay for a long time.