The Golden Eagles tennis teams can be described in one word: focused.
The men’s and women’s tennis teams have taken many steps toward success in the spring season, which begins on Feb. 12. The teams have practiced several times a week, using different aspects of fitness to prepare for competition.
“What we’ve been doing is practicing outside whenever we can, and then on days when it’s bad weather, we go inside,” Taylor Russell, junior on the women’s team, said. “We do conditioning with weights, run and stay in shape.”
Along with strength and conditioning, the teams have been practicing by playing games against each other. Kamal Fulghem, sophomore on the men’s team, pointed out that competing within the team is an excellent way to be prepared for the opponents they will face this spring.
“We’ve been doing a lot of doubles, singles and point play,” Fulghem said. “Everyone will play everyone, so we have a variety of styles and skill levels competing against each other. We’ve been having a lot of good practices lately. There’s been a lot of high intensity because we all want to get better and get ready for the season.”
John Brown University’s campus is not the only place where the Golden Eagles have improved. Early in the semester, the team traveled to Arkansas City, Kan., where they competed in a tournament with other schools at Cowley College.
“We got to play some schools that we had never played before, and a lot of the guys made it to the semifinals,” Fulghem said. “Our coach said that’s never happened before, so I was proud to be a part of it.”
Focus has been considered the most important aspect to work on for the Golden Eagles. Russell said that coach Paul Pautsch has made the concept a theme for the season.
“We can win certain matches, but only if we stay focused on them,” she said. “Sometimes we lose matches that we could win because we weren’t focused. I would say focus has been hammered in. It’s what [coach Pautsch] has been expecting this year.”
The training, gameplay and season’s theme have proven to be effective in readying the team for the spring. Nathan Kuykendall, freshman on the men’s team said he can see a measured improvement in terms of gameplay and team chemistry.
“I can see improvement in a lot of the athletes, from stroke form to physical strength,” Kuykendall said. “We’ve been able to grow tighter as a team and as a family.”
Ultimately, the Golden Eagles are looking to each other for success this season.
“As a team, as long as we work really well together, keep things positive and keep the energy flowing, we’ll do well,” Fulghem said. “If we all help each other out and push each other, we should have a pretty good season.”