Championship mentality: Andie Daniell fuels the Crimson Tide

Championship mentality: Andie Daniell fuels the Crimson Tide
Photo courtesy of UA Athletics

Alabama women’s tennis coach Jenny Mainz has coached a lot of successful players in her long career. She’s coached All-Americans and national champions, but Andie Daniell is in her own class.

 “Andie is the hardest working player that I’ve ever coached in 27 years of college tennis,” Mainz said. “She’s a phenomenal human being and we’re blessed to have her. I think she pushes and makes the team better every day with her championship mentality.”

Now a junior, Daniell first started taking tennis lessons at the age of five. Born and raised in Georgia, Daniell’s parents played recreationally and often took her older sister Rachel along with them. Rachel then got into tennis, an act which spurred her younger sister to pick up the sport as well.

“I wanted to beat my sister, so then I started playing because my goal when I was little was ‘I can’t wait for the day I can beat my sister,’” Daniell said. “Then later on I realized I actually enjoyed the sport.”

Rachel is no slouch; she wound up playing for UAB from 2011 to 2015. Daniell said they would play together often in their younger years, and credits her sister with helping her develop a lot of her skill.

“We were each other’s best hitting partners,” Daniell said. “I would say part of the reason I’m as good as I am is because of my sister. She always pushed me to be my best and we kind of have a good sibling rivalry between us in a healthy way. I definitely credit a lot of my game and where I am today to her.”

Though they don’t play anymore, their many matches in Daniell’s youth certainly paid dividends. In an illustrious prep/junior career through high school, Daniell competed in and won at nearly every level of competition. She reached the No. 1 national ranking in every United States Tennis Association junior age group. She won national tournaments in the United States won international competitions in Jamaica and Puerto Rico. As an amateur in June 2015, she was part of the winning doubles team in the Bethany Beach Pro Tournament, a professional tournament.

By the time she was ready to look at colleges, she was ranked the No. 3 national recruit and No. 1 in Georgia by TennisRecruiting.net. She said she knew she wanted to stay in the Southeast, so she looked at primarily SEC schools. She took visits to Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee, but she said the Crimson Tide stood out to her.

“I chose Alabama because of the family aspect. I could just see when I came on my visit that the team seemed like a family and that seemed really cool,” Daniell said. “They also just seemed like a program on the rise and I wanted to be a part of that. They have incredible resources, and Jenny and [assistant] Shelley [Godwin] are great coaches as well as great people.”

Mainz remembers seeing Daniell play in 2014 at the USTA Winter Nationals in Phoenix.

“I remember her being a fierce competitor,” Mainz said. “She had her game face on, had her head down and was going to work, just grinding away. She was just ready for battle mode.”

Daniell had a strong freshman season, earning SEC Freshman of the Year honors, as well as being named to the All-Freshman team and to the second team All-SEC. She was ranked in the top-50 by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association ten times and reached as high as No. 31, finishing the year at No. 51. Her doubles partnership with Erin Routliffe got as high as No. 20 during the season, finishing the year as No. 61. She was the first Alabama freshman to make the NCAA singles championship cut since 2010.

Junior tennis is all individual-focused, and her freshman year at Alabama was her first real team experience.

"It definitely was an adjustment going from being very individually focused to a team atmosphere,” Daniell said. “There was an adjustment period of figuring out ‘How do I cheer for others on the court?’ It sounds really silly, but it was definitely a learning curve.”

Sophomore year Daniell said she was more comfortable. She won two-thirds of her singles matches, and a very successful doubles season. The duo of her and Routliffe won the 2016 ITA Southern Regional Doubles Championship and the ITF 10k LTP Charleston Championship.

Now entering her junior season, Daniell is a co-captain of the team, along with senior Smith Hinton. She’s the longest-tenured member of Alabama’s roster and ranked No. 37 pre-season in singles by the ITA.

“Andie takes everything very seriously on and off the court,” Hinton said. “She definitely has the all-or-nothing type mentality. She plays very aggressively, and her work ethic is very strong. She pushes everybody to be their best. She’s always the first one lined up for sprints or the first one out there on the court ready to go for practice.”

Mainz and Hinton both said that Daniell is a prototype for how an Alabama athlete should be. Hinton said Daniell buys into the culture of the program, and Mainz said she is an excellent role model for the team.

Daniell recognizes her role as a leader, and said she wants to try and be a leader with both her words and her example.

“If you lead by example, then your words can be backed up by your actions,” Daniell said. “It’s important to also be aware of how other people are doing. You have to look outside yourself and be like, ‘So-and-so is struggling today, how can I help that person?’ You can help them by working your butt off, but you also might need to come to them and ask ‘How can I help you today’ or encourage them.”

Daniell said the team’s goals and her own are the same: to be the best players they can every time they step onto the court. They want to win matches, but that’s not all they’re focused on.

“Instead of saying ‘We’re going to reach this certain number’ it’s ‘We’re going to go out and do our business,’” Daniell said. “Of course we want to win, the goal is always to win, but it’s more about doing the right things every single day…That’s what makes a good team.”

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