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New tennis coach to lead both women's and men's teams

By JOE OSTER/VN SPORTS EDITOR
On October 6, 2015

After a heartbreaking loss in the Horizon League Championship last spring, the UDM women’s tennis team hopes to bounce back under new head coach Aaron Paajanen.

“They were disappointed last year … with being so close and not making it,” said Paajanen. “They want to compete for that league title.”

Although this is his first head-coaching job, Paajanen, who also coaches the UDM men’s team, is no stranger to success in the collegiate tennis circuit.

He was an NJCAA all-American in 2002 while playing at Cowley Community College in Arkansas City, Kansas. His success earned Paajanen a scholarship to play tennis at Point Loma University, where he posted a career winning percentage of .780 and was a team captain.

 In 2004, Paajanen began assistant coaching under his parents, Jim and Barbara, at Paradise Community College in Phoenix.

Paajanen went on to assistant coaching jobs at Loyola Marymount and UC-Santa Clara, both Division I schools.

In his two seasons at Santa Clara, the men’s tennis team reached national rankings. Six of his players even earned all-West Coast Conference honors.

Trading in the glitz and sunshine of California for Detroit winters may not seem ideal, but Paajanen doesn’t mind.

“I really believe this city offers so much,” he said. “I’ve really fallen in love with it in just the short time I’ve lived in the city.”

With all six players on the women’s team hailing from foreign countries, there might’ve been some disconnect between Paajanen and his new team.

“Everyone was telling me about all the Russians on the team here (UDM), and I was actually kind of excited because of all the Russians on Santa Clara who I got along with really well,” he said.

As a matter of fact, this is Paajanen’s first time coaching a women’s team at this level.

Juggling men and women teams could prove to be a difficult transition, but Paajanen seems to have a handle on the matter.

“They both present different challenges,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed it so far, but it’s been a lot of work.”

Paajanen’s goal for both teams is to be a yearly force in the conference.

“I want to be competitive in the Horizon League,” he said. “I think that’s realistic.”

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