Speed leads to success for Salisbury's Goodman

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 16, 2008

By Bret Strelow
Salisbury Post
Newton-Conover’s Won Lak Choi, still coming to grips with his three-set loss against Joe Goodman, approached Salisbury tennis coach Chris Myers.
Choi praised the play of his opponent, then requested details about the plan Myers and Goodman had devised to make the upset possible. Goodman simply utilized quickness he first discovered roughly a decade ago on the blacktop outside Sacred Heart Catholic School.
The victory against Choi, seeded first on the second-ranked team in 2A, pushed Goodman into the Midwest Regional final last weekend. Two earlier wins qualified him for the 2A state singles championships that begin today in Cary.
“Without a doubt, Joe’s biggest asset is his foot speed,” Myers said. “In the 10 years I’ve been out here, I’ve never seen a kid that even comes close to the way Joe can move out on the court. When he’s able to do so, it neutralizes those power hitters so much because you know he’s going to be able to run down everything.”
Goodman used his greatest strength to frustrate Choi on Saturday, and Newton-Conover teammate Josh Gill defeated Goodman in the regional final.
The Midwest’s No. 2 seed automatically draws the Mideast’s No. 3 seed in the first round of state competition, and Goodman will face 2007 singles runner-up Tyler Cook of Graham.
Goodman, a senior, is 19-4 this season and 66-17 in his career.
“For the past two years I’ve really wanted to go to states, and I had come close,” Goodman said. “It really felt good to make it.”
Goodman’s two older brothers played tennis at Salisbury, and Daniel reached the state semifinals in 2005.
Salisbury senior Benton Whitaker, who showed up at Catawba on Saturday to offer support, has been present for each step of Goodman’s progression.
They squared off regularly as freshmen, and Goodman improved to a point that allowed him to play competitively against his higher-seeded sibling.
Whitaker and Goodman were good friends before they reached high school. Jay Duke and Micah Jarrett joined them for races during recess periods at Sacred Heart, and Goodman excelled in the sprints.
“We would always see who was the fastest,” Goodman said. “It was pretty much a pride thing. That’s how I got fast, from racing my brothers and friends.”
Goodman, also a soccer standout at Salisbury, hits all of his groundstrokes with two hands. Additional speed is needed to make up for reduced reach, and his unorthodox style helps him direct the ball at extreme angles from his forehand side.
Goodman went 20-0 as a freshman, and he has occupied the top spot in Salisbury’s lineup for three years. He struggled to a 10-8 record as a sophomore playing against talented veterans but emerged as the conference and county player of the year as a junior.
Goodman won the CCC singles tournament this season, and he fell one victory short of the regional title.
The speed that boosted his chances of beating Choi can become a burden.
“Sometimes I challenge him because I know how quick he is and I can always tell if he’s slacking a little bit in practice,” Myers said. “Until he turns on the jets and goes, I know he’s not giving it 100 percent, and there’s some good-natured ribbing about that.
“When Joe makes up his mind like he did last weekend, the end result is usually extremely positive.”
Contact Bret Strelow at 704-797-4258 or bstrelow@salisburypost.com.