Kansas City Christian tennis coach Brad Belden heard whispers about Sara Goodwin long before the two met. A few people had told him he would soon be coaching the best player in school history. Others thought he was set to welcome the top player in all of Kansas.
By SAM MCDOWELL
The Kansas City Star
Two years later, Belden sits outside a tennis court on a sunny afternoon watching Goodwin warm up with her teammates and recalls his first encounter with Goodwin, now a senior.
Mind you, this isnt easy for him to admit.
I was skeptical when I first saw her. She was pretty small and soft-spoken, so I thought: Theres no way this girl can have that much power behind the ball, Belden says. And then I saw her play.
The initial skepticism wore off in the span of one game, maybe two. Afterward, optimism took over.
I knew this girl was going to compete with anyone in the state, Belden says. You could tell right away she was someone who was going to win a state title.
Uh, make that two.
After skipping her freshman season because of an illness, Goodwin won back-to-back Kansas state championships in her sophomore and junior seasons. The Stars reigning All-Metro player of the year, Goodwin is aiming to make it three in a row this fall.
Im hoping to win it again, of course, Goodwin said. That would be a great way to end it.
Goodwin has lost only one match in her high school career. That came against Madeline Hill from Topeka Washburn Rural two years ago. By comparison, her first win this season marked her 50th career victory.
And that reserved style, by the way, can be misleading, insists Goodwin, who prefers to say shes focused.
Tennis is both mentally and physically challenging thats why I enjoy it, Goodwin said. You have to think a lot throughout a match and figure out your opponents weaknesses. And you cant let every mistake get to you. Thats why its a mental game.
Shes not bad at the physical aspect of the game, either. Thats where experience comes into play.
Goodwin estimates she was 5 years old when she first picked up a tennis racket. She plans to play in college. Kansas and a handful of Ivy League schools top her list.
Its a family sport. Her brother, Johnny, is a junior at Kansas City Christian and won the Kansas 3A-2A-1A tennis state championship as a freshman.
Sara is willing to admit Johnny is the better player now, but thats a claim very few of her peers can make. Goodwin has already crossed state lines this season to beat Barstow senior Alena Frye, the defending Missouri Class 1 state champion and perhaps the best high school tennis player in the state. The two meet again Friday.
Top competition, Belden says, typically draws out the best in Goodwin.
As much as I was surprised at how much power and consistency she has, I was more surprised at her mentality on the court, Belden said. Shes very intense, very focused. Shes super competitive, but you wouldnt see that if you see her anywhere else. You just have to watch her play to appreciate it.
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