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Net gains: Greenwood junior closing in on state title

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Greenwood junior Jackie Kawamoto hits a shot during a preseason practice March 11. Kawamoto, the Woodmen's No. 1 singles player, will participate in the state finals starting Friday. FILE PHOTO
Greenwood junior Jackie Kawamoto hits a shot during a preseason practice March 11. Kawamoto, the Woodmen's No. 1 singles player, will participate in the state finals starting Friday. FILE PHOTO

Of the many athletes who have passed through Greenwood Community High School’s girls tennis program, only one has ever made it to the singles championship match.

Jackie Kawamoto hopes to change that.

The Woodmen junior is one of seven finalists competing this weekend for state titlist honors at the 32nd annual IHSAA Girls Singles Tournament.

Kawamoto’s spotless 25-0 record will be put to the test Friday afternoon when she faces Emily Mast, a freshman from Fairfield High School (near Goshen) at Park Tudor High School.

If you go

What: IHSAA state singles finals

When: Friday and Saturday

Where: Park Tudor High School in Indianapolis

Admission: $5 per person per day

Friday’s schedule

2 p.m.

Match 1: Leah Barnes, FW Canterbury (29-0) vs. Denise Azcui, Bloomington South (25-1)

Match 2: Claire Reifeis, North Central (20-5) vs. Kelly Iden, Hamilton SE (22-1)

Match 3: Emily Mast, Fairfield (21-1) vs. Jackie Kawamoto, Greenwood (25-0)

Saturday’s schedule

10 a.m.

Match 4: Bailey Padgett, Carmel (22-0) vs. Winner of Match 1

Match 5: Winner of Match 2 vs. Winner of Match 3

2 p.m.

Match 6: Winner of Match 4 vs. Winner of Match 5, championship

Match 7: Loser of Match 4 vs. Loser of Match 5, consolation

Kawamoto, if victorious, returns Saturday morning to play one of the semifinal matches.

The high-water mark to this point for Greenwood girls tennis is Andrea Calvert, the 1988 state singles runner-up who lost to two-time champion Stephanie Reece of North Central, 6-7 (7-3), 6-0, 6-0.

Kawamoto herself is three victories removed from joining Reece and 22 others at the summit of her sport.

“I think I’ve done pretty well and have learned a lot this season,” Kawamoto said. “I think I’m smarter as a player, strategy-wise, and my demeanor is better on the court.

“I think it’s a case of getting older and having more court experience.”

Sprinkled into Kawamoto’s dominance this season is an abundance of straight-set triumphs, many going the double-goose-egg route.

Her lone three-set experience of the season came last Friday against Floyd Central senior Olivia Boesing, who placed third in the 2012 state singles tournament.

Kawamoto dropped the first set by a score of 6-3, then rebounded nicely to win out, 6-4, 6-4.

“I had never seen her play before,” Kawamoto said. “I’ve been able all season to control the offense, but (Boesing) was also able to do that to me.”

Kawamoto’s presence at Park Tudor eases the sting of Greenwood losing 3-2 to Floyd Central during Saturday’s quarterfinals of team competition at the Indianapolis Racquet Club.

Teammates now become some of Kawamoto’s most ardent and vocal supporters. Her twin sister, Jade, finished the season undefeated at No. 2 singles and will be firmly in her cheering corner.

“I’m still really nervous, but my team will be there to support me,” Kawamoto said. “I know the competition will be tougher, but I’m excited for it.”

Mast earned her spot on the opposite side of the net by advancing out of the LaPorte Regional in dominant fashion. She defeated Andrean’s Grace Cooper, 6-1, 6-0, and took the final match by a 6-0, 6-2 count over Chesterton sophomore Meg Modesto.

Fort Wayne Canterbury sophomore Leah Barnes proved every bit as impressive in breezing through the opposition at Kokomo. Barnes is 29-0 so far after placing second at state a year ago to Penn senior Alexandra Brinker, 6-4, 6-2.

The climb becomes steeper, for sure. Kawamoto, however, has proven consistently adaptable.

“Jackie’s had a sensational year and is such a great competitor who doesn’t like to lose games or points,” Greenwood coach Steve Gantz said. “She knows she has to step up, but Jackie usually does adjust well to the player and the pace.

“Jackie is older, more mature. Just the ultimate consistent person.”

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