Athlete of the Week: Eric Cender

by Kymee Noll – Horizon Editor-in-Chief

Photo by Eleya Raim.

A powerful and inspirational leader on the tennis courts for teammates, sophomore Eric Cender (Valparaiso, Ind.) has been a critical tool for two of the team’s three wins of the season.

Coach Myron Diener has been impressed with his player’s start, emphasizing Cender’s noteworthy victories.  Cender came out on top on two come-from-behind wins in the team’s first home match of the year versus Colorado Christian University (Lakewood), both in singles and doubles.  This gave the men an edge with Cender giving the strong contribution for the Lark’s 7-2 victory.

“Similar to his personality, Eric is a problem solver on the court,” said Diener.  “He may not hit the hardest but through well placed shots and timely aggressive strokes, he methodically puts together his points in an order that translates into game wins and ultimately match wins.”

Photo by Eleya Raim.

The Larks then traveled to Colorado to compete against the same opponent, where Cender again took the reigns for the team.  Cender and doubles partner, Yuu Sakaguchi (Japan), “fought off a match point to come back and win,” said Diener.  Building off his doubles win, Cender finished the match with a strong two-set win (6-1, 6-2) at #2 singles.  Showing his graceful leadership, Cender added two points to the Larks’ second win of the season (6-3).

Freshman teammate, Andry Stutzman (Harrisonburg, Va.), is still in disbelief at Cender’s character traits, even after a semester and half of school.

“I’ve gotten to know Eric pretty well over the course of the year,” said Stutzman. “I have been very impressed with his integrity and work ethic.  Whether on or off the court, Eric is someone who’s always ready to give all he’s got without cutting any corners.”

A fond memory both teammates and coaches share of Cender is of the team’s recent skiing endeavor during spring break.  Even though there was no pressure to succeed, Cender’s personality shone.  A true love for learning and prevailing are huge parts to Cender’s nature.  Diener mentioned that Cender has acquired a new skill of “sliding down large mountains (Ski Cooper and Copper Mountain).”  Stutzman said, “Eric was one of the few who attempted skiing all the way down from the top of the mountain, despite this being the first time he had ever gone skiing.”

Photo by Eleya Raim.

A word that both coach and teammates can agree on describing Cender is “persistent.”  Coach Diener says he just “does not give up.”  Freshman teammate, Keegan LeFevre (Hesston, Kan.), says Cender’s “perseverance and attitude towards the game is spot on.”

“Eric is a guy that won’t let anything get in his way,” said LeFevre.  “Each point he fights until the end and if he gets down in the match, that’s not going to stop him from winning.  He shows the right way to play tennis by example.”

“Eric shows real maturity on the court and demonstrates model behavior,” said Diener.  “In the tight points of a match, if the opponent hits a good winning shot, Eric will applaud his effort and then immediately go back into his thought process on how to play the next point.”

In addition to tennis, Cender is effectively active on campus.  He is part of the student life’s team as a resident assistant, a Bill of the famous Bill’s and Norma’s, a Business Scholar, and was one of the two student participants in the Mennonite Economic Development Associates conference last November, an organization that supports small businesses around the world.

The Larks next match will be at home versus Bethel College on Wednesday, April 1 beginning at 4:30 p.m.


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