The men’s tennis team traveled to Lakeland College this past weekend, where they had a very successful match. I asked freshman Cam Strawn, one of the players on the men’s team, why he thought they were so successful against Lakeland, considering that they crushed them by seven points! He said, “I feel that our team was successful because we managed to stay composed. We didn’t let our emotions get the best of us and managed to stay concentrated on playing our best.”
I then asked him what their biggest weakness was or if there was something they could improve upon for the next game to come? He said, “I believe that if the team managed to compose themselves better, they would have been able to play longer and stronger.” Composure, like all things, takes practice, but while it is not easy, it is an achievable skill. It requires patience and precision, much like tennis!
I asked Strawn what stood out to him about the game, and he said, “Even though we won, our opponents were no slouchers; they still played well and it was good to gain experience from them. I don’t believe there were any game changers in the matches. I think the overall mood of the team was good, no one seemed to be too emotional during the matches on or off the court.” Remaining calm and impartial is important, even though this was a conference game, and it helped lead the Vikings to success.
I asked Strawn what he thought he personally could improve upon during that game and what he thought he did well at. Strawn said, “I believe I was good at finishing points quickly and keeping my shots consistent. The one thing I could improve on is that I should come up to the net more often, as I need to work on not being intimidated playing an opponent up close and personal.”
Since Strawn is a freshman this year, I asked him: What has been the most difficult transition for you going from a varsity sport in high school to now being a D3 Athlete? What new challenges does it pose? What difficulties did you not foresee or could not prepare for and are struggling with adapting to now? “I feel like the greatest challenge I’ve had to deal with by being a D3 athlete is managing myself. The biggest obstacle I have in matches is trying to stop myself from getting anxious and beating myself up over minor errors. A difficulty I did not foresee was waking up early and having to mold my schedule around it.”
I finally asked Strawn: Why do you personally play tennis? Why did you choose to continue to play in college? Strawn said, “I play tennis personally because it is a sport that allows me to play on my own, allowing me to improve myself and view what I did right and wrong. It’s almost similar to school or a paper, I like being able to accomplish things on my own, learn from my mistakes and improve as a result. I chose to continue in college because I really like to play; tennis has always been part of my life and my family’s life. Its cathartic for me to play and allows my mind to focus in a way I can’t get off the court.”
One thing that really stood out from what he said is the concept of knowing what he did right and wrong. Acknowledging one’s weakness is the first step towards improvement, and it looks like Strawn is on the right track.
Next, I asked Coach Francour to reflect upon the Vikings’ match against Lakeland. I asked him what challenges Lakeland posed in the game. What’s the history between Lawrence and Lakeland? “Lakeland presented us with a few challenges,” he said. “We had to recover from our difficult match the night before against Concordia and play early the next day. Two of our players weren’t available for Lakeland, so we needed everyone to contribute. Number 2 and number 3 doubles were new combinations; that can sometimes present problems. We train everyone to be ready for their chance to step up and play. We have had great success against Lakeland in my tenure at Lawrence. Lakeland has been a good match up for us and presents opportunity to compete against outside competition.”
It is remarkable that even with all those issues presented that the Vikings were able to pull themselves together in such a short amount of time and produce such outstanding results! This just goes to show how committed the men’s tennis team players are.
I then asked about the team’s strengths. He said, “Our strengths against Lakeland were great cohesion in doubles. With two new teams, they were able to perform at a high level. Singles was about being aggressive; when we had a chance to finish points we did. Our play on short balls and finishing at the net were excellent. When we can capitalize on our chance to end points quickly, it makes us a better team.”
Lastly, I asked him what obstacles he believes the team will have to overcome this season. Coach responded by saying, “Our challenges this year are people playing up a position in singles from last season. There is an adjustment period to get adapted to the style of play at a certain position. We also have three new pairings for our doubles teams. The more we play, the stronger these partnerships will be. Staying healthy and improving each match are also things that present challenges for our success. Managing our rest and working smart will help us with these challenges.”
It sounds like the Vikings’ biggest struggle this season is going to be adjustment, and if they continue to adjust as well as they did in their game against Lakeland, I see no reason why the Vikings cannot get into conference and give these other schools a run for their money.