This past fall Guillermo “Willy” Pardos arrived at Concordia with virtually no expectations. He just wanted the opportunity to do what he called the “cool thing” for natives of his home country of Spain. That meant finding a place in the United States where he could get an education and compete athletically.
Fast forward to the waning moments of the 2015-16 school year and it’s easy to see why GPAC tennis player of the week Pardos carries a wide smile. Says the native of Pamplona, “I really like it here. It’s better than what I expected. Coach (Joel Reckewey) is treating me super, super well. I can’t complain about anything. Sometimes I feel homesick, but I have good friends and a girlfriend. I’m really happy here.”
To say that Pardos has dominated GPAC opponents would be putting it lightly. He’s 4-0 in GPAC singles matches while carrying the pressure of playing every outing at the No. 1 position. Over his first four conference matches, he’s dropped a total of just seven games. He has also teamed with junior Javier Moreno on an unblemished GPAC doubles mark.
At one recent Tuesday Bulldog Booster Club gathering, a longtime observer of Concordia tennis told attendees that he had never seen anyone here play as well as Pardos. It’s high praise considering 1993 graduate Timothy Marshall went undefeated during conference matches his entire four-year career and was named the 1993 Concordia Senior Male Athlete of the Year. But Pardos made a quick first impression by blazing to the finals of an exhibition tournament in the fall. His teammates and competitors from rival schools took note.
The increased attention has blown Pardos away, who does a lot of talking – with his racket. In just his fourth collegiate appearance, Pardos upset the NAIA’s fifth-ranked singles player, Spartak Rahachou of Baker University (Kan.), on Feb. 6. At that point the secret was out on someone most U.S. collegiate tennis coaches had little knowledge of. Pardos had talked to Hastings College as well as institutions in Chicago and Michigan, but Reckewey had convinced him to come to Nebraska. All Reckewey had seen of Pardos was online recruiting video.
“I could tell that Willy had very sound strokes,” Reckewey said. “He also posted some very good results. However, it was quite a surprise to see the difference in person in terms of the talent that Willy actually has in his tennis game compared to watching a video.”
Now Pardos has invaded territory that has typically gone uninhabited by Bulldog tennis players. He finds himself listed in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s regional rankings. He checks in at No. 8 in the NAIA’s Central region. He says the recognition is nice, but it’s actually motivation for him to be even better.
“I didn’t know that (I was ranked),” Pardos said. “(Teammate) Thomas (Greeff) told me that I was in the rankings. That motivates me. I want to see if I can improve on it. Hopefully sometime I will be in the national ranking. That’s extra motivation to keep working and improving.”
An improved Pardos is a scary thought for GPAC foes. A strong baseliner with an all-around game, there have been minimal adjustments for someone used to the clay courts of Spain. The slight differences in the American college game have hardly phased Pardos, who is described by Reckewey as a “counter puncher.” Pardos thrives upon the mistakes of other players while rarely erring himself.
Pardos has made himself so comfortable that he wishes he could shrink the length of the summer and get back to Concordia faster. He’ll spend the summer honing his game on familiar clay courts in Spain. He also wants to improve his strength in the weight room.
All of these things could make Pardos even more of a bear as a sophomore in 2017. But his head coach loves his character just as much as his skill with a racket.
“One of the most exciting things about Willy is the way that he carries himself with his body language and demeanor on the court,” Reckewey said. “He has very good sportsmanlike conduct. He’s a role model in his determination to do well. Willy really cares. I’m really excited for the success he’s had and the progress he’s made, but more than that I admire his ability to conduct himself as a tennis player.”
Humble and prideful, Pardos chooses to focus on team goals. Unsolicited he’ll tell you that the main aim is to get to Mobile, Ala., site of the NAIA tennis national championships.
“My personal goal is to be undefeated,” Pardos said. “But I’d rather lose my own matches if we could make it to nationals. The most important thing is the team. Unfortunately we aren’t winning some close matches. I think we are really, really close. One day we’ll change it. We’ll win those close matches and if we do, we’ll make to nationals. No one expects us to be there.”
Not many expected Pardos to be this dominant either. Things change. All the way from Spain, Pardos has arrived to change the game, and the face of Concordia tennis.