She's Got Grit

Carlee Petro Begins as the New Women’s Tennis Coach

In 2014, Carlee Petro began her freshman year on The Hilltop. Four years later, Petro stands as the Women’s Head Tennis Coach at Birmingham-Southern College.

She began her career with the 2015 Southern Athletic Association’s Newcomer of the Year Award and never looked back.

Following her freshman season, Petro won three all-conference team selections, collected a Player of the Year Award, achieved a 24-2 conference record at the number-one position, regularly won by coming from behind in heroic fashion, and became one of the best junior tennis coaches in the area. Her list of accolades did not come easily.

“When I was seven,” she recalls, “my mom signed me up for tennis lessons with a local tennis pro, and it took off from there.”

Petro quickly made her way through the junior tennis ranks and eventually found herself starting as a high school tennis powerhouse. She accumulated four state titles at Mountain Brook High School and led the Spartans to the 2011, 2012 and 2014 6A State team titles.

While Petro was at Mountain Brook, collegiate coaches saw her tremendous value as a player, and Petro was heavily recruited throughout high school. After much thought and consideration, Petro decided on the The Hilltop. The rest is history.

Petro’s high school record was impressive, but long-time BSC Tennis Coach Ann Dielen saw her as more than just a number. It’s how she won.

“She’s got grit,” says athletic director Kyndall Waters. “She’s someone who can battle and has enough confidence in her abilities to shift momentum after being down. That’s a great sign of a leader.”

Petro’s unwavering confidence allowed her to make impressive come-from-behind wins which propelled her to 42nd in the country. Petro’s physical qualities matched with her technical abilities made for a powerful serve, quick feet and an unprecedented backhand that proved difficult to handle.

Petro maintained uncanny poise throughout her career and will undoubtedly carry her confidence into coaching. These attributes are impressive, but they aren’t the only reason she stands as Head Coach.

“When Coach Dielen asked me about my future,” Petro remembers, “I’d always tell her I wanted to coach tennis in Birmingham.” A few months later, Coach Dielen hinted at an opportunity.

“One summer while I was still in school, she called me saying that when she retired I could possibly take over her job. I didn’t know if or when that would happen, but it was a possibility.”

In the meantime, Director Waters saw the stars and knew they would align.

“She’s a great fit,” Waters explains, “She’s an alum, she’s got an incredible love of the game, she’s worked with Coach Wienacker [Men’s Head Coach] in the summers, and she’s the best tennis player we’ve ever had.” All of these characteristics made for a seamless transition.

Petro begins her collegiate coaching career this fall, marking the first time in 41 years that Ann Dielen will not be at the helm. Petro’s hire makes her the youngest BSC Head Coach and the youngest tennis coach in the SAA, but that doesn’t faze her.

“While I am a little nervous to be coaching college at such a young age, I am truly excited to keep doing what I love at the school I love,” Petro continues. “Coach Dielen has prepared me to follow in her footsteps, and I couldn’t be happier.”

Coach Petro’s first season will be one of many new experiences, but Director Waters and the Birmingham-Southern staff have the utmost confidence in her abilities.

After all, she’s got grit.

Statistics and information used in this article were gathered from interviews, and Photo from BSC library Archives.