Only two of the seven girls tennis players in contention for a state singles championship this weekend are seniors.
One is Greenwood’s Jade Kawamoto, who a year ago could be seen and heard cheering on twin sister, Jackie, as she won the title against Carmel’s Bailey Padgett, 7-6 (7-5), 7-1.
The other is Padgett.
It remains to be seen whether another grueling Kawamoto-Padgett finale plays out Saturday afternoon at Park Tudor High School in Indianapolis, though the bracketing does make it possible.
“We think we’ve got a good draw because Bailey is in the other half (of the bracket) and the Bloomington South girl (undefeated Denise Azcui) is in the other half,” Woodmen coach Steve Gantz said.
In April, Jade Kawamoto downed Michelle McKamey of McCracken County (Kentucky) High School, 6-2, 4-6, 10-7 (super tiebreaker), and Jasper’s Maria Lueken, 6-3, 6-2, at the Jasper 4-Way Invitational.
These opponents, along with last week’s 6-2, 6-2 victory against Park Tudor’s Brigitte Hodge in the state team quarterfinals, represent the toughest matches Jade Kawamoto has played this season.
“Jade has played really well all season but just hasn’t had the challenges,” Gantz said. “The Kentucky girl is probably the best or second-best player in her state, and Jade beat her.”
Turns out she is her state’s best. Only a freshman, McKamey in May went on to capture the Kentucky state singles championship at the University of Kentucky’s Boone/Downing Tennis Center.
Now it’s Jade Kawamoto’s turn to attempt to duplicate the feat — albeit north of the Ohio River.
The senior holds a flawless 24-0 record entering today’s quarterfinal match against Terre Haute South sophomore Lauren Hambrock (15-4), who advanced out of the Kokomo Regional.
Historical possibilities exist should Jade Kawamoto close her season with three consecutive victories.
The Kawamotos wouldn’t be the first sister act to claim singles titles — Courtney (1978-80) and Holyn Lord (1989-90) and Katie (1998-2001) and Megan Martzolf (2005, 2007) — but would be the first to do so in consecutive seasons.
Getting there is the difficult part for Jade
Kawamoto, who has used the experience of this season to improve parts of her overall tennis skill set.
“I think I’ve had a good season and improved every match,” she said. “What I work on kind of varies every match, but I’ve been working on my footwork and serve a lot.”
Of course, it never hurts to practice across the net from a younger sibling (by a few minutes) who already owns a state singles championship trophy.
Jackie Kawamoto, because of experience, is capable of providing a basic scouting report on both Padgett and Hambrock.
“I don’t think Jade or Jackie ever felt like they were a No. 2 player. Neither of them thinks, ‘She’s better than I am,’” Gantz said. “Now Jade is practicing all the time with Jackie, and you can hear Jackie encouraging her.”
Jackie’s role today and possibly Saturday is to lend the vocal support she benefited from while capping a 28-0 season in 2013.
A preseason meeting with Gantz allowed the sisters to discuss flip-flopping No. 1 and 2 singles so that Jade would be in a position to duplicate what Jackie Kawamoto already accomplished.
Everything so far has fallen into place as planned.
But for Jade Kawamato, today is another day wrought with its own challenges. She’s hopeful of the same on Saturday.