For as long as Mallory Weber can remember tennis has been a big part of her life.
Now at 24 and just three years out of college, tennis remains Weber's top priority.
But in a whole new way.
A 2007 graduate of Belleville West, Weber was recently named head women's tennis coach at Missouri State University in Springfield, Mo.
The head coaching job is the first for Weber, who officially began the process of building the new Bears program April 1.
A member of the Missouri Valley Conference, Missouri State had dropped its women's program in 2006, only to re-instate it for the 2014-15 season.
"Basically, we're starting from scratch. I had no players and no schedule. We had the courts and net and that was about it,'' Weber said. "It's been a process these last two weeks of getting recruits in and building a team. But the support and guidance I have received from the MSU administration and athletic department has been tremendous.
"So far it's been a lot of orientation and paperwork. The big thing has been putting together a schedule and finding players.''
Finding players with the ability and desire that Weber possesses won't be an easy task for the former Maroon, who rewrote the record book while perhaps becoming the best high school girls singles player in metro-east tennis history during her time at West.
Weber is the only player in metro-east history to earn first-team all-state recognition three straight years in singles, as from 2005-07, she finished no lower than seventh at the state tournament.
Weber than went on to play four years of tennis at Missouri, where she was a four-time academic All-American.
Now after an initial year of teaching English and helping with the girls tennis program at Rockbridge High School in Columbia, Mo., and then spending this past year as a graduate assistant at the University at Texas-San Antonio, Weber suddenly has her own program in the Missouri Valley Conference.
"It seems like just yesterday that I was here playing for Belleville West and leaving to go to Missouri. It's all happened too quickly.'' Weber said. "I feel really blessed to have found a head coaching job just three years out of college.
"It was a little bit unexpected, but I'm very grateful for this opportunity and I'm ready to start this stage of my career.''
Weber's first goal is to find quality players. Five have already signed for the upcoming season.
Among those future hopefuls are Belleville East senior Rebecca McIsaac, who will attempt to walk for the Bears next year.
Weber said that because of the late start, recruiting high-caliber players has been difficult.
"It's been tough because a lot of the American kids commit in the fall. But I was fortunate to get some transfers, which I'm really happy about and I also have some freshmen who will be coming in,'' Weber said. "We'll also have some international players coming over.
"There are some very talented players and it's good to have a good mix.''
The Bears will play three to four tournaments in the fall and then play a full spring schedule, including a full slate of MVC matches.
Weber said Wichita State, Drake and Southern Illinois University Carbondale are usually the top teams in the MVC.
As for MSU in the near future? Weber is hopeful.
"It's going to be a building process and it's going to take a few years to where I want it (the program) to be and where I'm comfortable with,'' Weber said. "I'm very happy with the girls that we have so far for the upcoming season and while it might be a lofty goal, I'm hoping that maybe we can finish in the upper half of the MVC next year.''