Arkansas head women’s tennis coach Courtney Steinbock announced July 16, 2018 the hiring of Natalie Pluskota-Hamberg as the program’s assistant coach.
Pluskota joined the Razorbacks after two seasons as assistant coach of the Gonzaga women’s tennis team.
During the 2017-18 season with the Zags, Pluskota was instrumental in helping the program to a second-place finish in the West Coast Conference for the second straight year with a 16-7 overall record. For her efforts, she was named the tasc Performance ITA Assistant Coach of the Year by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association.
Under the development of Pluskota and Zags head coach D.J. Gurule, Sophie Whittle earned All-WCC first-team honors in singles and doubles with partner Graciela Rosas for the second straight season. Nevada Apollo earned second-team honors in singles, and the doubles pair of Haruna Tsuruta and Alex Bourguignon were named All-WCC Honorable Mention.
The Zags also earned the ITA Northwest Region’s Community Service Award for their work in the community during the year. The honor is given to just one team in each of the ITA’s 10 regions.
Pluskota was part of the most successful season in Gonzaga history in her first year with the program in 2017. She helped lead the Zags to a program-best 17-4 record and reach the WCC Championship final for the first time in school history. During the regular season, the Zags finished second in the conference, and they ended the year with a fifth-place ranking in the ITA’s Northwest Regional rankings, another program high.
With the help of Pluskota, four Zag individuals or doubles teams earned All-WCC honors, including a pair of first-team singles players in Whittle and Apollo. Both finished the year in the ITA’s Northwest Singles ranking, as well.
A native of Newnan, Georgia, Pluskota joined Gonzaga after a four-year pro career and two years of teaching experience. Most recently, she served as a tennis professional at Bridgehampton Tennis and Surf Club in Bridgehampton, New York, where she gave lessons to members and oversaw children’s summer tennis camps.
During the 2015 dual season, Pluskota served as a volunteer assistant coach at Oklahoma State, alongside Steinbock, helping lead the Cowgirls to a 23-6 record and a spot in the NCAA Tournament’s Round of 16.
As a professional tennis player, Pluskota saw success on the doubles court, reaching a No. 157 world ranking and claiming four pairs titles. She won the $10,000 Evansville (Indiana) Tournament in 2014 while adding wins in South Carolina, Phoenix and Atlanta. In singles play, she was a finalist in a $10,000 tournament at Landisville, Pennsylvania, reaching a world ranking of No. 478.
As a student-athlete at the University of Tennessee, Pluskota earned four All-American honors, being recognized for her doubles play in 2009, 2010 and 2012, and singles play in 2012. She reached three NCAA Doubles Tournament semifinals, reaching the championship match in 2010. Additionally, Pluskota earned three All-SEC first-team or second-team awards along with Freshman All-SEC Team honors in 2009. She won four doubles titles in college, including the 2011 ITA Ohio Valley Regional and the 2010 ITA All-American Tournament.