The University of Arkansas Athletic Department is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15-Oct. 15, with a series of stories highlighting several of our student-athletes with Hispanic and Latino American backgrounds. We will be publishing a series of stories each Wednesday during the month-long event letting fans get to know selected student-athletes and how their heritage impacts them. Check back each week for new stories.
Take one look at the Arkansas’ women’s tennis roster and the diversity is immediately noticeable. Four out of the six players on the current roster were raised internationally. Three of those players enter this year as freshmen, with high expectations for their Razorback careers. The fourth, Claudine Paulson from Guayaquil, Ecuador, is the lone senior on this team and will look to use everything that she has learned at Arkansas to lead the team.
Paulson remembers being a freshman and adapting to college life. It was a challenge initially, but she fell in love with the University of Arkansas and the tennis team. Quickly, Fayetteville became her second home.
“At first it was difficult because I didn't have my family with me and I was still adapting,” Paulson explained. “Now as a senior I've made great friendships with people from around the world because the university has a very open and welcoming environment that made it easy to adjust. Since I first visited the University of Arkansas, I loved every second if it, especially the beautiful campus and the friendly people.”
While in Arkansas, Claudine has kept her culture and her values close. While she is 2,800 miles from her hometown, she has still found a conducive and supportive atmosphere for a variety of different cultures.
“My Ecuadorian heritage is very important to me,” Paulson said. “It taught me everything I know, such as my principles, my beliefs and how much I value my family. That is important here because you learn a little bit from everybody and people learn from me as well. That makes everyone have an open mind towards people that are different from you. It doesn't matter where you are from; the University of Arkansas is home for all cultures.”
Paulson has had a very strong career at Arkansas, making an immediate impact on the court since the day she arrived. She holds a career record of 56-40 in singles, and her sparkling 67-40 doubles record was highlighted by her final match last season, defeating Long Beach State’s No. 84 pair of Laura Bernard and Rachel Manasse in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Her sophomore season was especially strong, when she recorded a 22-10 singles record, a 27-12 doubles record and finished the season as the No. 14 ranked doubles pair in the nation alongside Razorback Anouk Tigu. With that, she advanced to the second round of the NCAA Women’s Individual Doubles Championship.
This season, Paulson will look to build on her vast experience to lead the talented but youthful Razorbacks squad. As the only upperclassman, she has the rest of the team depending on her to provide leadership. That is a role she is excited to embrace.
“I feel like I'm always been one of the team leaders,” Paulson said. “And now as a senior with five newcomers is really important to be a role model and lead my team to success.”
The fall season is already underway, and Paulson got her first two wins of 2012 under her belt at the Country Club of Little Rock Invitational. She is very determined entering her senior season, and is eager to finish her Razorback career on a high note.
“My goal for the season is to finish top 20 or better in the team rankings,” Paulson explained. “I would like to get into the NCAA individual tournament in singles and doubles. Of course, I want to finish with a high GPA and give the Hogs everything I have both on and off the court as a thank you for everything I got from the Hogs.”