It's not just her solid play that St. Catherine's sophomore tennis player Aubrey Eckstrom has gotten praise for. It's been her sportsmanship, one of the hardest attributes in sports.
There’s a balancing act in the hypercompetitive sport of tennis.
Picture on one side of a double-pan Libra scale, the desire to win. On the other pan, just barely staying level, is the ability to fairly self-officiate with respect to the rules and integrity of the game.
In a sport that is structured around individual rankings and personal win-loss records also has a theme of sportsmanship woven into it.
In a game of self-policing and integrity, the bold white line separating “in” and “out” can be a test of an athlete’s character and sportsmanship.
For St. Catherine’s sophomore tennis player Aubrey Eckstrom, that balancing act is something she’s learned and inherited from a tennis-savvy family and her high school playing days in St. James.
To the St. James native, sportsmanship is paramount. It’s learned. It’s applied.
And last week, she was justly rewarded for it.
Eckstrom was named to the MIAC (Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) All-Sportsmanship Team last week. The honor recognizes student-athletes who demonstrate ideal behavior on and off the court.
“It’s [sportsmanship], is something I think I just naturally do,” said Eckstrom, who went 5-3 in No.1 doubles this season. “Whether I win or lose, maintaining a healthy balance of competitiveness and respect for my opponent is important.”
Since she was little, Eckstrom has always had influences in the sport. She didn’t have to watch TV or pick up a book to find them, however, she had three older tennis-playing sisters to model her game after.
The Eckstorms - Amber, Ashley, Aryn and the youngest Aubrey, a quartet of tennis-playing sisters racked up a combined 400+ victories on the courts of St. James.
As a member of St. James tennis team, Eckstrom made three consecutive team appearances in the Minnesota State Tennis tournament from 2012-2015. As an individual, Eckstrom qualified for the Class A Doubles State Tournament in 2013 and 2014 and appeared in the State Singles Tournament as a senior in 2015. Eckstrom was a two-time team captain, three-time All-Conference honoree, and was named team MVP in 2015.
Beyond the sisterly dominance, St. James tennis coach Les Zellmann touts that sportsmanship and character runs through the quartet.
“Some of the nicest and kind-hearted people I’ve ever coached,” said Zellmann, who coached all four of them. “Aubrey is no exception, her ability to respect the game has always been exceptional.”
In all three of her older sisters, Eckstrom has incorporated pieces of her sister’s game into her owns.
The passion of her oldest sister, Amber.
The finesse of Ashley.
The power of Aryn.
“I see tennis as a bonding experience between and me and my sisters, and I’ve learned so much from them.”
However, Aubrey is also her own player. She was exceptional in doubles play and in her foray into singles she went 4-1 at No. 6. What’s more impressive, is that she posted double bagels in all four of her wins.
As the rising junior will prepare for another season at Bloomington, she knows that consistency is the name of the game.
Consistency in her serves and lobs, but also consistency in her approach to the game.
Aubrey Eckstrom has proved that in her second season in purple and white, that she’s as consistent on the court as she is off the court.