When Abby Stainback makes her collegiate tennis debut this weekend at the Baylor HEB Invitational, she won't literally come out of the stands.
But that's the analogy and picture that coach Joey Scrivano paints of the freshman walk-on from Dallas (Texas) Highland Park High School.
"It's kind of like a 12th Man situation," said Scrivano, referring to a Texas A&M tradition that started when a student came out of the stands to play for the Aggies in a football game. "But she can actually play tennis. That's the good part. I'm not sure that the 12th Man guy could even play football."
Until this week, Stainback was just like any other Baylor freshman, hitting the books and doing the whole class thing. But with two of Baylor's players in New York for the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships and four others on the shelf with injuries, the only ones left to play in Baylor's own tournament were senior Karolina Filipiak and freshman Aya Bara.
A 4-star recruit who had offers from several schools, including Texas Tech, Stainback had decided not to pursue a college tennis career and instead followed in her parents' footsteps to come to Baylor. Her dad, Kent, was a four-year letterman for the Baylor golf team in 1978-81.
In high school, Stainback was a four-time Class 4A state doubles champion with four different players. She won as a freshman in 2007 with Taylor Schreimann, then repeated the next three years with Natalie Leitch, Kellye McDade and Kristen Adams, and also led Highland Park to three team tennis state championships.
"Her family's a real Baylor family, and she's a great kid," Scrivano said. "This is something she wasn't planning for, but she's really helping us out. She had communicated with us through the recruiting process that she might want to walk on and be a part of the program, maybe not. But the way our team's health has been, we thought, `Hey, let's see if Abby has any interest and would be willing to help us in any way possible.' It's kind of a neat story.''
The call to Stainback came because of injuries that has four players sidelined - seniors Taylor Ormond and Jelena Stanivuk, junior Diana Nakic and freshman Cristina Danaila. Stanivuk and Nakic are both dealing with wrist injuries, while Ormond and Danaila are recovering from shoulder problems.
"We've just got a lot of injuries, the most I've ever experienced in my career," Scrivano said. "I don't know what we've got to do. We kind of need a miracle to happen to get some of these kids back."
And if not, Baylor's "12th Man" might have to play in the top six.
Sic 'em Bears!
When Dwain Price from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram somewhat facetiously asked Art Briles on Monday if he had been contacted about any National Coach of the Year nominations, the third-year Baylor head coach replied, "No, and I don't expect to."
That could just be Briles' West Texas humility, or maybe he doesn't honestly believe he's worthy of such an accolade.
And I'll admit that I might be a little close to the situation. But why isn't Briles a leading candidate for National Coach of the Year?
When the 2010 Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award watch list was revealed recently, it included former Baylor assistant and current Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy. And considering what all he lost off of last year's team and where the Cowboys were picked to finish in the Big 12 South (5th), Gundy is certainly worthy of consideration with OSU at 7-1 overall and ranked 17th in the latest BCS standings.
The other six candidates are Gene Chizik of Auburn, Chris Peterson of Boise State, Mark Dantonio of Michigan State, Chip Kelly of Oregon, Kirk Ferentz of Iowa and Mike Stoops of Arizona.
I'm not saying I would start dropping names off the list. Shoot, they're all worthy. But you know what all seven of those guys have in common? They had their teams in bowl games last year.
That's why I think Briles is an obvious choice - or at the very least, a candidate - for National Coach of the Year. He's taken a team that hasn't gone bowling in 16 years - and was picked to finish dead last in the Big 12 South . . . again - and led them to a 7-2 record, a No. 21 BCS ranking and on top of the division at 4-1. Enough said.
"I love coach Briles," said senior strong safety Byron Landor. "He deserves this. He's been here . . . and people have doubted him. People have said he doesn't do this, he doesn't do that. But he's a great coach. After every win, after every game, I give him a hug and tell him, `I love you, man!' This team is going to do everything we can to help him win every game."
Most postseason awards are no more than popularity contests or beauty pageants. But if Art Briles isn't even a candidate for National Coach of the Year, it doesn't get any uglier than that.
Sic 'em Bears!