Jennifer Lutgert has been a coach at Northwestern since 2000, and Director of Northwestern Tennis Camps since 2002. From 2000-2004 Jen worked as an assistant coach with the varsity women’s team.
A native of Western Springs, IL, Jen grew up playing tennis at the public courts in her town and at the Oak Brook Park District. She loved the competitive aspect of tennis from the beginning. After competing nationally as a junior, she played tennis at Northwestern from 1996-2000, earning a Bachelor of Science in Journalism, and was able to compete in the team’s first two Big Ten victories in their current streak of 15. Her proudest tennis moment came as a senior at NU, clinching the match for the team’s second Big Ten title.
Jen worked briefly in public relations, but realized quickly that tennis was her true calling. She loves working with all levels of players and enjoys the challenge of making every player better in some way, every day. Jen especially loves working with kids and loves the joy and enthusiasm they bring to the sport. She is so appreciative of being around the inspiring Northwestern environment and finds it motivating to be around some of the top talent in college tennis.
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Val Vladea is in her second year working for Northwestern Tennis Camps as the head coach. Val has previously worked with the Marquette, Purdue and DePaul women’s varsity teams.
A native of Ontario, Canada, Val learned to play tennis at 11 years old, and her first significant memory in tennis is winning Canadian nationals in doubles. She graduated from Minnesota with a degree in Sports Management and completed her Master’s degree in Humanities from Northwestern.
While at Minnesota, she earned three consecutive All-Big Ten honors while playing at no. 1 singles and doubles all three years.
Vladea finished her collegiate eligibility at Northwestern where she again earned most valuable player honors with an overall record of 34-9. She helped the Wildcats win their seventh-straight Big Ten Tournament title as they finished the season ranked 5th in the nation. Val loves coaching and believes emphatically in working on the process rather than the outcome. She enjoys seeing people feel good about themselves as they watch their game progress and improve.
Rob Gurden is in his first season on the Northwestern coaching staff in 2014-15. Gurden joined Northwestern’s varsity program after spending one season as an assistant coach of Purdue’s women’s tennis team where he helped the Boilermakers earn an NCAA tournament berth. He previously spent 20 years as a private and group tennis instructor.
The Michigan native is known for his high energy and creative approach to the game. He specializes in identifying a player’s game style and maximizing their potential by teaching them to problem solve and to truly believe in their ability. Gurden has been teaching tennis full time since 1994 and has coached over 50 players that have received Division I tennis scholarships. His players have won numerous titles including the U.S. Open junior girls singles title; United States Tennis Association (USTA) national, Futures and Challengers titles; and hundreds of local and sectional championships. He has also been involved in the USTA’s High Performance Program for 11 years.
A graduate of Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich., with degrees in psychology and film and video, Gurden played at the top singles and doubles spots all four years. He was ranked top-20 nationally in Division II and was the team captain and MVP as a senior.
Ash Abdelhak is in his second year coaching at Northwestern. He has previously taught at Four Lakes Racquet Club in Lisle, Glen Brook Racquet Club, Evanston Park District and the Berwyn Park District.
Ash started playing tennis at 5 years old and fell in love with the game. He liked the challenge and the independence of tennis, yet loved the teamwork aspect of doubles. As a child Ash would spend all day in the summer on the tennis court and considered it his second home.
Ash played on the Egyptian collegiate team and traveled around the world playing tennis for fun. He holds an MBA from Lewis University Business School, and has spent much of his professional career as a marketing manager for international companies.
Ash still plays tennis competitively on three USTA teams in the Chicago area. He has committed to coaching full time, and is also in the process of becoming a personal trainer. He enjoys being on court and helping others improve in the sport he loves.