Much has changed inside the Concordia University tennis programs since the Bulldogs last took the court at the GPAC championships in early May. While there’s plenty of roster turnover, stability in the form of second-year head coach Joel Reckewey provided a big boost to recruiting. Enter 13 new Bulldogs that come from far and wide.
Reckewey’s projected 2016 lineups are chalk full of freshmen who actually outnumber the group of returning players. The dynamics of a remade roster has sped up the need for team-bonding activities. The Bulldogs have held movie nights, watching such films as The Karate Kid, and typically eat together within Concordia’s close-knit campus community. Says freshman Katelinn Wurm, “Weird situations have brought us together.”
Wurm, a native of Bradenton, Fla., and Willy Pardos, who hails from Pamplona, Spain, are two of the more prominent newcomers to the 2016 Concordia lineups. Both are representative of a freshman class gaining traction as it finds its bearings amidst unfamiliar surroundings.
There’s new life in a program pulsating with a positive and energetic vibe. The play in practice has been elevated in obvious ways.
“It was a clear evolution,” Pardos said. “As we approach the first match I see that the whole team is taking practice very serious and working really hard. We’re doing things the right way.”
Wurm says that she’s “10 times better” than when she started her collegiate career at Concordia in the fall. Reckewey found Wurm through a recruiting website and expressed interest in The Sunshine State native. Wurm made a snap decision in a “wing it” moment and signed to be a Bulldog. The opportunity to crack the lineup right away played a role in her decision.
“It’s really exciting (to be able to play right away),” Wurm said. “That’s like the big thing when it came to recruiting. My main goal was to play. That’s what I wanted to come and do. Knowing that I’m able to do that is really exciting. Our match is coming up and I’m so thrilled. It’s amazing.”
While Wurm is unable to engage in one of her favorite hobbies – going to the beach – at Concordia, she’s found the small-town, Christian atmosphere to her liking.
“I do enjoy it. My hometown’s really big,” Wurm said. “Coming here it’s kind of nice knowing everybody. I rarely see any new faces anymore. You can walk somewhere and you see people and you can just talk to them. It’s not like I’m in a big campus or a big town and I don’t know anybody. I actually enjoy it.”
Pardos, who dreamed of playing collegiate tennis in the United States, admits that the cold winter weather cuts right through him. But the positives far outweigh the negatives for Concordia’s new No. 1 singles player. The guidance of upperclassmen such as Morelia, Mexico, natives Patricio Esquivel and Javier Moreno has increased Pardos’ comfort level.
“It’s really nice,” Pardos said. “Before coming here I didn’t expect to like a small college like this one. I really like the way we all go to the same place to eat. I have friends in most of my classes. It’s really cold, but I really like the life here.”
Wurms will concur. Even while enjoying moderate temperatures in Florida over the holiday break, she missed everything she had come to know during the first semester at Concordia. She was more than ready to return to Seward.
“I went back for break. I went (to the beach) a few days,” Wurm said. “I kind of enjoy it here, too. I wanted to come back here. It’s a little weird, but I have the whole summer to go back to the beach so it’s OK. It’s just a new transition.”
So far the transition has operated smoothly. The real tests begin this weekend when 2016 action gets underway. It’s time for Concordia to roll out a brand new team.
Says Reckewey, “I think we have a lot of talent. We have hard-working players with positive attitudes. If we can come together we will have the opportunity to move up and I’d like to see us do that.”