Golden Eagle Tennis Programs Refocus for 2013 Season Under Pautsch

Junior Michelle Caneday

Junior Michelle Caneday

SILOAM SPRINGS, Ark. (February 13, 2013) — The John Brown University tennis programs are excited for the prospects that the 2013 campaign offers under first-year head coach Paul Pautsch. Both teams will look to experience a resurgence as the squads combined for a 6-23 last season.

Paul Pautsch joined the Golden Eagle coaching staff last summer and quickly pieced together a roster of what he believes as hard-working dedicated students. While Pautsch won't put any weight on the programs' records, he believes the numbers are something that will take care of itself.

"Wins and losses are something I don't usually harp on too much, " admitted Pautsch. "If we work hard in practice, we'll find victories in a lot of our matches. Sure, we may be overmatched in some contests, but the character of these players will be revealed in those tough matchups."

The 33-year coaching veteran is accompanied by a wealth of experience forged at numerous levels of the game of tennis. For the last 20 seasons, Pautsch has been the head coach at Bentonville High School where he implemented a no-cut tennis program that was met with tremendous success.

While neither squad features a senior, Pautsch believes that his captains, juniors Marrisa Podgorski, Leah Engstrom and Cameron McLendon, will exhibit veteran leadership as the program continues its upswing.

"I want them to be real, true leaders and make good decisions for the team," Pautsch said. "They need to lead by action, example and direction."

Podgorski (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) was usually featured in the fifth singles spot for the Golden Eagles last season. She is hoping to exhibit a servant leadership role, regardless of the role she's called upon.

"I love my team and I love seeing God use tennis in my life," noted Podgorski. "However, I am most excited about serving and loving my teammates. Whether that be cheering for them beside the court or playing my best while on the court, I want to be available for them even through the ups and downs of life.

"I believe God has called me to love these girls on and off the court and that is really my heart's desire this semester."

Engstrom (Tulsa, Okla.), played a large role on the women's team last season, serving as the No. 1 doubles and No. 3 singles player for John Brown. Her doubles partner, Kellie Mowrer, a sophomore, is hoping to improve her personal game this season.

"I am always trying to improve my skills, especially in my singles record," said Mowrer, a Lenexa, Kan., native. "Matches are always such a blast, regardless if we win or lose."

Joining Engstrom and Podgorski are juniors Tiffany Prieb (Hesston, Kan.) and Michelle Caneday. Caneday (Taylor Falls, Minn.) was a mainstay for the Golden Eagles last season, manning the top singles slot while battling in the No. 2 doubles spot.

Courtney Pinter (Tulsa, Okla.) features as the only other sophomore on the women's side.

Three freshman join the ladies as Krizana Saucedo (Eagle Pass, Texas), Katie Bellinger (Lawrenceville, Ill.) and Marissa Russmann (Wheaton, Ill.).

The men's side features a lone duo of upperclassman as McLendon and Del Campbell look to anchor the Golden Eagle lineup. McLendon (Hendersonville, Tenn.) was the mainstay for John Brown last season, playing at the both the singles and doubles top spot.

"I'm really looking forward to this season," McLendon added. "We have an incredible group of guys and I'm excited to begin our matches and see how well we've progressed."

Campbell (Tallahassee, Fla.) had to miss the entirety of last season due to injury.

The remainder of Pautsch's squad include seven underclassmen, led by three sophomores including Rogers, Ark., native Luke Pascoe. Pascoe could be found last season at the No. 4 singles slot while joining sophomore teammate Alex Baker (Plano, Texas) at the No. 2 doubles slot.

"I'm really hoping we can catch teams off guard," admitted Baker. "There may be some squads that aren't expecting much of a fight from us, but we're deep and talented throughout our lineup. We will be able to compete with teams much better than in years past."

Lastly, four freshman join the Golden Eagle fold, including two from Northwest Arkansas. Luke Reimer is no stranger to the area as he competed for Siloam Springs High School while Colton Cheek prepped at Fayetteville High School. Both players are looking to make an immediate impact.

Seong Ja Jo (Seoul, South Korea) joined the squad this past fall as a walk on, much to Pautsch's delight.

"I know Jo can be a real good player for us. It will take him some time to adjust to the rigors of the college game, but he has great potential."

Finalizing the freshman class is Brandon Laney (Clever, Mo.). Laney played in the No. 2 singles and doubles slot for Clever High School, joining the program in its first year of existence as a sophomore. Laney will need to adapt to the collegiate game quickly, but he admits he's ready for the challenge and the experience with his new teammates.

"Although this is my first season at JBU, I am thrilled to already find myself surrounded by a group of people that share my passion for tennis," Laney explained. "Coach has really stressed the importance of being a family on and off the court. We've worked extremely hard in the offseason and I'm glad we're led by someone that is dedicated to seeing that we're successful. He always expects nothing but our best."

While high expectations may be the cornerstone to Pautsch's coaching philosophy, it also ties into the greater mission of athletics at John Brown University.

"Our ultimate goal this season is to improve with each practice and each match," said Pautsch. "More importantly, however, we are always going to represent JBU with a Christ-like attitude. I'm thrilled for this season, mainly because none of our student-athletes have reached their full potential yet. This is exciting for me because the improvements will be obvious as we get stronger as a program as the season progresses."

Both squads open play on Friday, Feb. 15, as they travel to Little Rock for matchups with Harding and Hendrix. The teams will finish its slate of weekend games in Conway on Saturday in a contest against Ozarks.

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Junior Michelle Caneday

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Junior Michelle Caneday