A lifetime of passion and commitment toward the sport of tennis became something bigger for Bob Modesto, who was named the head coach of Valpo’s women’s tennis program in July 2019. He completed his second year as a collegiate head coach in 2020-21.
In his second season at the helm, Modesto guided Valpo to its highest win total since 2007. His squad compiled a four-match winning streak from Feb. 28 to March 13 with victories over Wayne State, Northern Illinois, Chicago State and Oakland. That marked Valpo’s longest winning streak since April 2007.
The Brown & Gold topped Northern Illinois 4-3 on March 6, 2021 in DeKalb, the program’s first win over a Mid-American Conference opponent in 16 seasons (W 5-2 at Toledo on March 17, 2005). That was Valpo’s first victory over NIU on record as the Huskies had won all five matchups since the turn of the century and gone 4-0 in the series in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Valpo was shut out in seven of those nine defeats and had dropped its most recent matchup with NIU 5-2 in 2018. Valpo beat Chicago State 7-0 on March 7, 2021, its first 7-0 whitewash of a Division-I opponent since 2017.
Modesto’s first conference match as a head coach was a memorable one as the team beat UNI 5-2 on April 2 in Cedar Falls for the program’s first league victory since joining the Missouri Valley Conference. That marked Valpo’s most lopsided conference triumph since topping Green Bay by that same score on April 9, 2016. The victory marked a stark turnaround from Valpo’s most recent matchup with the Panthers, a 6-1 setback on April 14, 2019. The Brown & Gold started the conference slate with a victory for the first time since the beginning of the 2006 Mid-Continent Conference schedule (W 7-0 over Centenary).
Under Modesto’s leadership, Valpo hauled in six Missouri Valley Conference weekly awards during the 2020-21 campaign. Olivia Czerwonka garnered MVC All-Select Team and MVC Scholar-Athlete First Team honors, while her older sister Claire was awarded the State Farm MVC Good Neighbor Award and MVC Scholar-Athlete Honorable Mention while also being featured in the MVC Scholar-Athlete spotlight. Claire and Olivia put together a nine-match winning streak at No. 1 doubles during the season en route to finishing the year with a doubles winning percentage of .667, tied for seventh best in program history and the best since 2004-05. Claire finished the 2020-21 season in the top 10 in the program record book in both singles wins (44, ninth) and doubles wins (52, third), while Olivia finished the year with a .585 career singles winning percentage that ranked sixth in the record book and a doubles winning percentage of .595 that ranked second.
Modesto’s team also thrived in the classroom in 2020-21. Valpo Tennis posted a 3.71 GPA during the Spring 2021 semester, the highest among all Valpo programs. The squad finished with a 3.72 GPA for the 2020-21 year (both semesters) with eight players earning a 3.0 or above for the spring semester and seven garnering a 3.5 or better.
In his first season at the helm, Modesto guided his squad to its highest winning percentage since 2006-07, marking the program’s best season in a 13-year span. Despite seeing the spring slate cut short due to COVID-19, his squad matched its highest win total since 2006-07.
In his first season in 2019-20, Modesto oversaw the development of a talented freshman class and the continued progress of Claire Czerwonka, who climbed into the Top 10 in program history in career doubles wins. Claire and her younger sister Olivia teamed up to win an MVC Doubles Team of the Week award, while freshman Amanda Tabanera captured an MVC Singles Player of the Week nod on her way to a team-high 16 victories. Modesto helped his players total a 71-70 (.504) singles record and a 36-32 (.529) doubles mark during his first season in charge.
The Chesterton resident was familiar with Valpo’s program before taking the helm as his daughter Meg played for the team for the last four seasons and graduated in May 2019. All three of Modesto’s daughters played tennis at the Division-I level with Bobbi playing at IUPUI and Maureen doing so at Missouri.
Modesto began teaching tennis in 1993 as a pro at Match Point Tennis Club in Griffith, where he was the Director of Tennis. He coached the boys tennis team at Homewood-Flossmoor High School in Illinois to seven consecutive state appearances and led the girls team at Munster High School to five straight trips to the Indiana state finals during his stint leading the Mustangs from 2004-2009. His time coaching at Munster concluded on a high note in 2009, when the team finished third at state and senior Mary Hill became the first female singles player from Northwest Indiana to win a state title. Modesto coached high school student-athletes who went on to play at Bradley, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Bowling Green and Missouri.
In recent years, Modesto served as the Director of Tennis at the Northwest Athletic Club in Michigan City. A seasoned coach and instructor, Modesto has been recognized as a conference coach of the year, district coach of the year and state coach of the year. He was named the Post-Tribune Coach of the Year three times and the NWI Times Coach of the Year on four occasions. He has presented at tennis coaches’ conferences in Chicago, Indianapolis and at the University of Notre Dame.
Modesto served in two branches of the military, is an Air Force veteran and was an officer in the U.S. Army. His life experience also includes time as a hotel general manager, high school English teacher and high school Dean of Students. He was a walk-on wrestler at Purdue, where he graduated in 1984 with a degree in education, English and speech. He went on to receive a master’s degree in communication from UIC in 1993.
Modesto’s passion for tennis was exemplified in 2018, when he received significant media attention for playing at least 90 minutes of tennis every day for 365 days.