ASHLAND — Longtime Southern Oregon University coach Gail Patton has announced that she is retiring as the Raiders' head women's tennis coach

ASHLAND — Longtime Southern Oregon University coach Gail Patton has announced that she is retiring as the Raiders' head women's tennis coach

Patton has coached tennis at SOU for the last 10 years and has coached overall at SOU for 15 years.

"This was a hard decision," said Patton, who will continue teaching tennis in the Rogue Valley. "Coaching is in my blood. I put my heart and soul into coaching, not just here, but every place I've coached."

After graduating from UC Davis in 1972, Patton started coaching girls basketball at La Sierra High School in Sacramento, Calif. In all, Patton coached in either high school or college for 27 of the last 35 years.

In 1999, Patton took over the SOU women's tennis program and immediately found success.

The longtime tennis professional has the highest winning percentage of any SOU head coach based on a 111-35-1 (.755) mark. Nine of the program's 10 consecutive winning seasons came with her at the helm.

Her 2006 squad finished with a 12-3 record, the most dual wins since the 2002 season. Patton also led her team to a third place regional finish after a tough 2005 season where they finished 8-7.

Both the 2003 and 2004 squads won 11 duals and placed third regionally, and her 2002 team compiled the program's second-best season ever based on dual-meet victories (13). In 2000, Patton and the Raiders recorded the school's best record in nearly 25 years (12-2), clinched a Cascade Conference title and achieved the program's first-ever NAIA team ranking (No. 16 during the season; No. 25 in the final poll).

Prior to taking over the reigns of the tennis program, Patton served SOU as an assistant professor and the head women's basketball coach from 1985 to 1990.

"As is the case with many of our coaches, coaching was a labor of love for Gail," SOU Athletic Director Dennis Francois said. "She exemplified this not only in her duties as head tennis coach, but in her involvement with the tennis community in the entire Rogue Valley. I especially admire her efforts in advocating for gender equity. She was a pioneer for SOU with respect to women's athletics and instrumental in developing awareness regarding this issue. Coach Patton's service to our department and university is greatly appreciated and will be missed."

Patton also served as head women's basketball coach at Rocky Mountain College from 1982-85 prior to arriving in the Rogue Valley. Her coaching stops also included numerous positions at Mira Loma High School in Sacramento and tennis coaching positions at South Medford and La Sierra High School.