HILLSBORO, Kan. — Kansas City Christian sophomore Johnny Goodwin knew exactly what he needed to do to defend his Class 3-2-1A singles tennis title against Wichita Independent senior Jake Norman.
By JOANNA CHADWICK
The Wichita Eagle
“I definitely knew I had to play smarter than he did,” said Goodwin on Saturday at the Hillsboro Sports Complex. “I knew that the wind would be a big factor and that I would need to be smart with that and move around a lot. Obviously, I did not do it well enough.”
Norman beat Goodwin 7-6 (7-5), 6-3 to win his third 3-2-1A title in three tries. Norman didn’t play high school tennis in 2012, choosing instead to focus on training.
Wichita Independent won the 3-2-1A team title with 54 points, while KC Christian finished with 53. KC Christian’s doubles team of Brad Tippin and Eli Alholm finished second, losing 6-3, 6-1 to Wichita Independent’s Sam McCoy and Jacob Maddox. KC Christian’s Alex Kartsonis finished third in singles with a 6-0, 6-3 win over Central Plains’ Layne Bieberle.
As close as the team race was, KC Christian coach Brad Belden did not want his team even thinking about the points.
“It’s something that we were trying not to talk about,” Belden said. “Keep everyone focused on the match at hand, play the match they’re playing in and not really worry about it. But it was in the back of the guys’ mind. We were so close last year, like a match away last year. We were a match away this year.”
KC Christian was four points behind winner Conway Springs in 2012 and a half-point out of second.
As for Goodwin, he put himself in position to beat Norman by lengthening volleys and returning the taller Norman’s serves well, especially through the first set.
Goodwin opened the match by breaking Norman’s serve, then punctuated the second game with a slam as he took a 2-0 lead.
“He’s a very good player,” said Norman, who beat Goodwin earlier in the season. “He was pretty hot in the beginning. I was broken first game, so it made things a little more difficult from the get-go.”
“It wasn’t an easy match for him, because Johnny is a good player,” Wichita Independent coach Simon Norman said of his son. “In those situations, it’s nicer to be the underdog. Jake battled through it well. He had a few anxious moments early on, but I was proud of him.”
Goodwin’s strength, according to Belden, is an unwillingness to concede points or matches.
“He’ll be down match point, and he’ll still fight,” Belden said. “That’s one of the best parts of him. He’ll never give up. He never stops a point until it’s over.”
Norman responded and tied the first set at 4-4 by breaking Goodwin’s serve, then went up 5-4 for his first lead. But it took a tiebreaker for Norman to win the set.
“That gives you a lot of momentum going into the next aspect of it,” he said of winning the tiebreaker. “It was a big part of it.”
Norman broke Goodwin’s serve to open the second set and then Norman, who had already showcased his powerful serve, found his serving rhythm.
“He has a huge serve, and he definitely brought it when he needed it,” Goodwin said. “It’s a really good facet of his game.”
“That big serve was hard to defend,” Belden said. “It gave him a big advantage for the point when he hit that big serve in.”
Goodwin’s game changed slightly in the second set, too.
“I got a little tight, and he took advantage of it, like a good player would,” he said. “I started feeling a lot more pressure to hit the ball. I was missing a lot of my first serves. By the time I got that going, it was too late. He has a huge serve, and he definitely brought it when he needed it. It’s a really good facet of his game.”
In doubles, Tippin and Alholm just never got a rhythm going against McCoy and Maddox, who also won the doubles title in 2011.
But Belden was not disappointed one bit by his team’s showing.
“All our guys played really well,” he said. “Yeah, we got beat by Independent. Jake came back so Johnny lost. But all our other teams improved. … Everyone improved, and that’s what you have to focus on. Yeah, we lost the team title, but everyone got better.”