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Goodman’s run ends in regional final

By Bret Strelow
Salisbury Post
Salisbury senior Joe Goodman summoned enough energy to outlast the first opponent from Newton-Conover, but he couldn’t overcome a second.
Goodman encountered Josh Gill in the singles final of the 2A Midwest Regional, and Gill won 6-3, 6-4 on Saturday afternoon at Catawba College.
Goodman advanced to the championship match with a 7-6 (7-4), 3-6, 6-4 victory against Won Lok Choi, Gill’s teammate at Newton-Conover. Choi (17-6) is the No. 1 player for the second-ranked Red Devils, the 2007 state runners-up.
Goodman (19-4) played 41/2 hours of tennis Saturday. His semifinal match lasted two hours, 40 minutes.
“Without a doubt, that’s the best he’s ever played,” Salisbury coach Chris Myers said. “He just never went away, stayed in (Choi’s) face and made him realize he had to hit an exceptional shot every time. That’s just so frustrating, and Joe just kept coming and kept coming.
“Numerous times I think all of us ó coaches, spectators, players ó thought the point was over, and Joe got the ball back. Not only did he get it back, he got it back deep and neutralized Won’s power. He just never stopped moving those feet.”
Goodman faced a fresh foe in the final.
Gill, the No. 2 player for Newton-Conover, won his semifinal by default over Patton’s Corey Carter. Gill (20-3) made few mistakes against Goodman.
“That first match took something out of Joe, combined with the fact (Gill) was just very solid,” Myers said. “Overall, it was just a great tournament for Joe.”
In the doubles final, Hibriten’s Avery Nelson-Huntley Nero won 6-2, 7-6 (8-6) against Ledford’s Landon Rogers-Scott Buchanan. Newton-Conover also had two doubles teams reach the regional semifinals, and the school’s entries went a combined 1-3 in that round.
Goodman held serve to even the first set against Choi at 6-all, then jumped ahead 4-0 in the tiebreaker. Choi pulled to within 4-3, and Goodman claimed three of the next four points.
Choi won four consecutive games to erase a 3-2 deficit in the second set. Goodman showed signs of fatigue during that stretch, but Choi also played at a lights-out level.
The players took a break before beginning the third set, and Goodman won the first two games. He maintained a narrow lead throughout the remainder of the match.
“The key was definitely playing defensive,” Goodman said. “Not going for too much, but at the same time, playing against a guy like that, you have to go for at least something if you want to hang in there. It was pretty much the same thing Myers told me ó keep forcing shots back at him.”
Goodman didn’t catch a break from the predetermined seeding process used for the upcoming state championships in Cary.
He likely will play Graham’s Tyler Cook ó last year’s state singles runner-up ó in a first-round match Friday.
Cook lost to Mideast Regional finalist Michael Reilly, the No. 4 player for defending dual-team champion Cardinal Gibbons, in a semifinal Saturday before prevailing 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-3) against Carrboro’s Amir Najmabadi in the third-place match.
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Contact Bret Strelow at 704-797-4258 or bstrelow@salisburypost.com.

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