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Woodmen serve up girls county tennis championship

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In the latest in a series of dominant performances, the Greenwood girls tennis team lived up to its No. 8 ranking at Saturday’s Johnson County Tournament at Whiteland.

Greenwood successfully defended its team championship with a 4-1 win against Center Grove in the title match.

As they have done the past three years as varsity starters, senior twin sisters Jade and Jackie Kawamoto dominated their matches in the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals rounds.

Jade, who’s playing the No. 1 singles position this season, and Jackie, the 2013 individual state singles champion who’s at No. 2 this season, took less than 30 minutes to win their finals matches.

In a preseason meeting with Woodmen coach Steve Gantz, Jade and Jackie expressed their desire to switch positions to give Jade a chance to win the state singles title. Only No. 1 singles players can qualify for the individual state finals.

“It’s hard, but it’s only right,” Jackie said of deferring the No. 1 position to her sister.

Against Center Grove (2-6), Jade defeated senior Priya Dave in straight sets 6-0, 6-0, and Jackie recorded the same scores against freshman Katelyn Gray.

That left it up to senior Makenzie Estrem — affectionately nicknamed “Little Bulldog” by teammates — at the No. 3 singles spot to nail down the championship with a team-winning third point.

Estrem took a little longer but won her match against freshman Maddie Weeks, 6-3, 6-0.

For Estrem, who will continue her tennis career at Indiana Wesleyan in the fall, playing behind the Kawamoto twins (University of Dayton recruits) has proved to be her comfort zone the past three seasons.

“I try not to let it (pressure) get to me during the match and just want to keep my focus,” Estrem said. “One point at a time, one game at a time, one set at a time. I think I’ve really grown in my mental ability and in my game.

“We always stay positive and encourage one another.”

Meanwhile, Greenwood’s No. 2 doubles team of sophomore Ally Newman and Molly Jacobs outlasted Center Grove seniors Kim Spindler and Rachel Gravens 6-4, 6-2.

The Trojans lone point came in the No. 1 doubles match.

Senior Kaitlyn Walsh, who stands at 5-foot-4, combined with 6-foot-1 sophomore Madison Smeathers to defeat Greenwood junior Ali Youngman and sophomore Joanna Moran 5-7, 6-0 and 10-8.

After the match, Gantz said the team continues to mature and improve in pursuit of a return to the state finals for the third consecutive year.

“We’re progressing. We knew we were going to have a mixture of a lot of veterans and new people,” Gantz said. “Our veterans really came through but our doubles played well today, too.

“We continue to work on getting those kids the experience they need as we move forward.”

In Saturday’s semifinals, Greenwood ousted Whiteland 5-0 and Center Grove topped Franklin 4-1.

Whiteland defeated Franklin 3-2 in the consolation match.

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