Tennis teams show early growth

Tennis head coach Paul Pautsch has a goal for the tennis program: consistency. Six contests into the season, he is starting to see both teams do just that.

“The thing I have been preaching … is consistency, and they’ve been getting that,” Pautsch said.

Pautsch sees in improvement in both the men’s and women’s tennis teams. On the road last weekend, the men lost to Bethel (Kan.) 8-1 and McPherson (Kan.) 5-1. The women’s team lost to Bethel 9-0 and defeated McPherson 5-2.

“I was just extremely impressed with the way out ladies came out to play,” Pautsch said. “They were ready to play, (junior) Leah Engstrom was remarkable in singles and in doubles.”

In the Lady Eagles’ win, Engstrom won, 6-2, 6-2 in singles play and, along with senior Michelle Caneday, fell narrowly, 9-7 in doubles play.

“I was really proud of how we came out and played in that match,” Pautsch said. “There are a lot of ways we could have folded we were a long way from home, and it was getting late in the day but they focused and played with a lot of confidence and a lot of poise.”

In the men’s contests, the Eagles faced a Bethel team that received votes in the national poll and a McPherson team ranked 19th in the country.

“Both teams played really hard,” said Pautsch. “That’s [what] we’ve been trying really hard to get across is to play hard on every play, and they responded really well.”

The losses dropped the men to 0-6, and the women moved their record to 1-5. Despite the teams’ records, Pautsch is more concerned with developing the program.

“We played really hard [and] we got beat by a really good team, … that’s what we’re going to face for a little while,” Pautsch said. “When the players buy into our system, which they are, we’re going to be just fine.”

Pautsch especially commended the recent play of senior Cameron McLendon, who plays in the Eagles’ No. 1 singles spot.

“Cam … played as good as I’ve ever seen him play,” Pautsch. “He really has picked up his game. I couldn’t be happier.”

In addition to McPhereson, Pautsch lauded the efforts of freshmen Colton Cheek and Brandon Laney, who (along with sophomore Luke Pascoe, Laney’s doubles partner) account for all 5 of the Eagles’ winning matches this season.

“With Coleton Cheeks and Brandon Laney, we are going to develop a really strong men’s team in the future,” Pautsch said. “It’s fun to watch them play and develop into college tennis players.”

Pautsch said he sees his development plan for the tennis program unfolding, and that future recruits will help both teams turn good efforts into good wins.

“What I want to see them really start to do … is for [the players] to play their game so they can play to their opponent’s weaknesses,” Pautsch said. “I think we’re on the right track, we’ve got some good talent and all we have to do is add to that.”