Tennis opens new season

The men’s and women’s tennis teams opened the 2013 season with three contests against NCAA opponents in central Arkansas.

Both the men’s team and the women’s team went 0-3 against NCAA Div II Harding and NCAA Div III Hendrix and Ozarks.

On Friday in Little Rock, both teams lost 9-0 to Harding and both dropped close contests to Hendrix, with the women falling 5-4 and the men losing 6-3.

The women’s team dropped another close contest to Ozarks on Saturday in Conway, losing 5-4. Against Ozarks the men also fell, 9-0.

Junior Leah Engstrom, who had two wins in singles play over the weekend, said it was a positive thing the team was competing, especially against teams the Eagles will see again later in the season.

“Obviously we would love to win those,” Engstrom said. “But [with] it being the beginning of the season it really shows us that we can compete and that next time [we can win].”

This weekend was the first competition the teams saw under the leadership of new coach Paul Pautsch. Pautsch was previously a coach at Bentonville High school for the last two decades.

Engstrom spoke highly of the new coach’s experience with winning tennis programs.

“We have a coach that has had a lot of experience, he played 30 plus years of tennis and he has a lot of state titles,” Engstrom said. “He knows how to win.”

With a new coach has come a new practice routine, and Engstrom said Pautsch’s practices have a new focus on skills over conditioning.

“We are just hitting all the time,” Engstrom said. “A lot of teams tend to … try and find a balance between hitting but also running and conditioning. We do run and we do condition but we don’t waste precious time on it.”

Part of that, according to Engstrom, is Pautsch’s focus on consistency. He is also focused on getting both teams prepared mentally as well as physically.

“Tennis is a huge mental game,” Engstrom said. “Our coach always tells us not to play two people because a lot of times we play our opponents and we all beat ourselves.”

Going forward, Engstrom said the presence of a coach this season will reap benefits on and off the court.

“Coach is teaching us how to fight for the win but at the same time maintaining who we are in God and … our character above all else,” Engstrom said. “But at the same time [we are] learning how to compete for God and give God the glory.”