Head Volleyball Coach
Inducted in 2017 as a member of the inaugural Fighting Illini Hall of Fame class, Mary Tendler is a former three-time first-team All-American and professional volleyball player. Coach Tendler concluded her 15th season at the helm of the Phoenix in 2017. Tendler led the maroon and gold through the transition to the Southern Conference in her first season in 2003 and then into the Colonial Athletic Association during the 2014 season.
Paralleling the program's rise to prominence in its previous conference, Tendler has guided the Phoenix to greater and greater success in each of the four seasons since the program transitioned into the CAA. In the 2017 season, Phoenix Volleyball achieved several program firsts in the CAA, including first-time conference wins over Hofstra and UNC-Wilmington, as well as their first appearance in the CAA Conference Tournament. Also in 2017, senior captain Sydney Busa became the first Phoenix volleyball player to receive All-CAA First-team honors; and first-year setter Kodi Garcia, in addition to being named to the CAA All-Rookie team, received a program-first honor as CAA Rookie of the Year.
During the course of the 2017 season, Tendler saw Maddie Jaudon reach the 1,000 career dig mark, while Sydney Busa reached the 1,000 career kills and 1,000 career digs marks as well. Busa, along with Kodi Garcia,
Kam Terry, and Courtney Carpenter, received mulitple CAA Player of the Week honors throughout the season. Several of the Phoenix were named to non-conference all-tournament teams as well. The Phoenix capped their 2017 home stint and final season in Alumni Gym with their first full weekend sweep of two CAA opponents, beating Hofstra in the fifth set on Friday and then sweeping Northeastern in three on Sunday for Senior Day. Alumni Gym was good to the Phoenix in its farewell season, helping the team to its best home record (11-5) since entering the CAA.
In 2014, Tendler guided Elon through a conference transition for the second time as the Phoenix played its first year in the CAA. On Oct. 31, the maroon and gold claimed its first CAA victory with a 3-2 win over visiting William & Mary. Tendler coached Busa to an CAA All-Rookie selection, who was also named the CAA Rookie of the Week on Oct. 6, while Gravley earned CAA All-Academic Team honors.
Prior to CAA-play, in the SoCon, Tendler guided Elon to five straight winning seasons from 2007-11, including a Southern Conference North Division Championship in 2010 and a 23-win campaign in 2009 that marked the most victories by an Elon volleyball team since moving to the Division I level. The number eclipsed the 19-win plateau that was set the year prior when the Phoenix went 19-16.
In 2012, Tendler led the team to a 9-7 SoCon record, a second-place finish in the North Division and a trip to the SoCon Tournament for the third straight season. The Phoenix posted a 6-2 mark in October, which was capped with four straight victories, including the team’s first win at Davidson in five seasons. Elon had three SoCon player of the week selections in Ali Deatsch (defensive/twice) and Harris (offensive), one player of the month selection in Celia Rose Eddy (defensive) and saw two freshmen (Gravley and Nicksic) named to the SoCon All-Freshman Team for the second straight year. Five players (Deatsch, Eddy, Harris, Allison Johnson and Reichard) were also named to the Fall All-SoCon Academic Team.
The team compiled a 19-14 overall record in 2011 and earned a trip to the SoCon Tournament for the second straight year. The Phoenix won the Hilton RTP/NCCU Tournament to start the season 4-0 and recorded sweeps of Hampton, N.C. Central, Campbell, Radford, High Point, Western Carolina, Davidson, Wofford, Chattanooga and The Citadel.
Elon earned SoCon Player/Freshman of Week honors eight times over the 2011 season as Deatsch won defensive player twice, Harris won defensive player and freshman of the week, Chanelle Smith won freshman and offensive player of the week and Caroline Lemke and Eddy both won offensive player of the week. Tendler guided both Harris and C. Smith to conference all-freshman accolades, while Lemke and Deatsch were both named to the NCCSIA All-State Team. In the classroom, seven of Tendler’s players were earned academic all-conference honors.
In 2010, Tendler was honored as the 2010 SoCon Coach of the Year after Elon went 21-14 overall and 11-5 in conference play on route to the program’s first SoCon North Division title. The Phoenix saw a season sweep over conference foe UNCG and it’s first win in six seasons over Furman. Elon also advanced to the semi-finals of the SoCon Tournament for the first time after a 3-0 victory over Davidson in the first round.
Tendler guided Sarah Schermerhorn and Lemke to all-conference honors, while Schermerhorn was also named to the conference’s all-tournament team. Schermerhorn picked up SoCon Defensive Player of the Week honors in November and Cali Estes earned SoCon Freshman of the Week honors in October. Schermerhorn was named to the CoSIDA/ESPN Academic All-District 3 First Team, becoming the first Elon volleyball player to do so and become eligible for Academic All-America status.
The Phoenix won its first 11 games of the 2009 season before narrowly missing the Southern Conference tournament with a 9-7 league mark. During the historic season, Elon took home two regular-season tournament titles and handed Chattanooga two losses for Elon’s first-ever season sweep of the Lady Mocs.
Tendler coached Lemke and Traci Stewart to all-conference honors and helped Deatsch earn all-freshman accolades. Lemke picked up SoCon Player of the Week Honors in October, marking the first time an Elon volleyball player was honored by the league in the regular-season. Schermerhorn was named to the 2009 ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District III Volleyball Second Team, becoming just the third Elon volleyball player to earn the distinction.
In 2008, Tendler coached the Phoenix to a then-Division I best 19 wins. During the season, Elon won its first regular-season tournament under Tendler and placed Lemke and Stewart on the Southern Conference All-Freshmen team.
From 2005-07, Tendler helped the Phoenix to a combined 39-47 record that included a 17-16 ledger in 2007.
During the 2004 season, Tendler’s second, the team finished with a 10-6 Southern Conference ledger for a second-place finish in the league’s North Division. Following the season, Emily Hayes was named to the All-SoCon second team.
In Tendler’s first season, she guided the Phoenix to a 14-19 mark, five more wins than the previous year. She also led the team through its first year in the SoCon, posting a 7-11 slate in the conference in 2003.
For three seasons before joining the Elon staff, Tendler served as an assistant coach at James Madison University and helped lead the Dukes to a Colonial Athletic Association Tournament title and an NCAA Tournament appearance.
Tendler, who played at the University of Illinois as Mary Eggers from 1985-88, went to James Madison from Drake University where she was an assistant during the 1999 season on the staff of her husband, Blaine Tendler.
Prior to her time at Drake, Tendler spent five years as an assistant at Illinois State. During that span, the Redbirds claimed a share of a Missouri Valley Conference regular-season title and earned bids to both the NCAA Tournament and the National Invitational Volleyball Championship Tournament.
Before her coaching career, Tendler spent a year-and-a-half playing with the USA Olympic team and spent two years playing professionally in Europe. She played for the Schwerte Volleyball Club in Germany in 1991 and the Francheville Volleyball Club in France in 1992.
A superior middle blocker during her playing days at Illinois, Tendler was named a three-time first-team All-American as well as the 1989 Honda Broderick Award winner as the nation’s top volleyball player. A four-time first-team All-Big Ten selection, Tendler was the league’s Freshman of the Year in 1985 and the Most Valuable Player in 1986, 1987 and 1988.
Tendler led the nation in hitting percentage in 1986 and 1988, setting an NCAA record with her .455 mark in 1986. Her .420 career hitting percentage stood as the NCAA record until 1993 and currently ranks third all-time. Tendler finished her career with 1,761 kills and only 326 errors on 3,417 attempts. She still ranks fourth in the NCAA in season hitting percentage and fifth for consecutive matches played with 151.
Tendler holds Fighting Illini career records in attack percentage, aces, blocks and kills. She was named the school’s Female Athlete of the Decade for the 1980s. She is currently a voting member in the AVCA Division I Coaches Top-25 Poll and on the AVCA's East Coast All-Region Awards Committee.
Tendler is married to Blaine Tendler, and resides in Burlington, N.C.