The twin towers guarding the net for East's No. 1 doubles team could pass for brothers.
At 6-foot-3 apiece, they have a wingspan that suffocates opponents. They provide a wall of racquets that stifles returned shots and a height that makes lob play a poor idea. Smart and driven, they treat tennis as the most fun of the year and are excited for Friday's Class 4A state tennis tournament at Liberty Park.
Adam Williams and Sam Rasmussen, who finished 5-2 in region play, have been playing together since the 10th grade. They are friends, teammates and … fluent in Chinese.
"Yeah, we both got our calls [for LDS missions] to China," Rasmussen said with a laugh. "It's funny that even after we leave tennis, we'll still be together."
With Rasmussen going to Taipei and Williams serving in Hong Kong, the young men know that they have some unfinished business to accomplish this weekend before their missions. They want to finish off their season strong after falling short to Timpview in the No. 2 doubles final last year.
"We have really good chemistry," Williams said. "We come to practice, play hard and have a lot of fun. I think this is why we've played so well together this year."
Williams plays the serious role while Rasmussen is the self-described comic relief for the Leopards. Rasmussen is light and ethereal in his manners but is the harder server of the two. Williams focuses more on getting the ball in play, whereas Rasmussen hits harder with more spin.
"I work on being more consistent than overpowering guys," Williams said. "I figure once we start the point, we can finish really well."
Rasmussen is self-effacing in describing his play. He taps his forehead as he jokes that he has to rely on his smarts as opposed to athleticism to defeat other teams. In practice, he is a defensive threat at the net and uses his sense of humor to keep his partner loose.
"I enjoy playing the mental game and have as much fun as possible out there," Rasmussen said. "But come tournament time, I figure we can't count ourselves out. You have to believe that you can do it."
Team captain Steiner Paulsen shares the same self-confidence.
The senior, who plays at No. 1 singles for the Leopards, is looking forward to the challenges on and off the court. He credits tennis for teaching him dedication and the ability to work hard.
"This is a really exciting time," Paulsen said. "I'm planning on going out there and trying my hardest. I think it's important to be mentally and physically tough."
With players in four of the five events, Paulsen is excited about individual and team honors.
"Steiner is a great captain," Williams said. "We're lucky to have a guy like him captaining the team."