Steven Goetz made the move from doubles to singles for Liberty's boys tennis this year and played in the No. 1 spot during the regular season.
Steven Goetz made the move from doubles to singles for Liberty's boys tennis this year and played in the No. 1 spot during the regular season, all the while sticking to a different plan for the postseason.
That meant playing a lot of different styles of tennis in the spring. Goetz did it with relative ease, and the junior had no complaints.
He went undefeated in the Lions' top singles spot, then switched to mixed doubles for the county and regional tournaments with hopes of qualifying for the state tourney. Goetz and partner Abby Brecker won the county and Region VII titles, giving them the experience of competing at the state tournament in Columbia.
The Liberty tandem reached the semifinals before losing and eventually placed fourth. And Goetz, the Times Boys Tennis Player of the Year, can't wait to go after it all over again.
"I'm very happy with how everything went," Goetz said. "I expected to win, and we won. Undefeated seasons for girls and guys, perfect. We were aiming for it and it worked out. We can only continue to get better as the years go on."
Goetz was part of Liberty's unbeaten spring, with the boys and girls teams each going 12-0 against Carroll foes and winning county championships. He earned the boys team's No. 1 singles slot by beating teammate Graham Jones in a challenge match before the season began.
Jones, a solid singles player in his own right, took the No. 2 slot. And they each crafted 12-0 regular-season records. But Goetz and Jones knew their roles would change come May.
While Jones stayed at singles and won his second consecutive county crown, Goetz teamed with Brecker and won the mixed doubles title in straight sets.
Goetz and Brecker went 4-0 in the regional tournament, defeating Fallston's Kaylee Phillips and Chris Tran 6-3, 6-1 in the finals. The Lions' duo then won their first two matches at the state tourney, and vaulted into the semifinals.
A straight-set loss to Walter Johnson's Anna Radeviciute and Ethan Kowalski followed, however, and Goetz and Brecker fell to the consolation final before losing again (Radevicitute and Kowalski went on to win the state championship).
It was a short run only in terms of matches for Goetz's mixed doubles experience. He and Brecker had been playing together all season long — they'd stay after Liberty's regular practice to work on their game, sometimes playing against a pairing of girls singles player Lili Izadi and Liberty co-coach Tim Brecker.
Getting the work in helped Goetz become a better player, he said.
"It was always the two things at the same time throughout the year," Goetz said. "Practicing singles and doubles every day, probably for a good two months. ... Probably 11 months out of the year, really. It worked out perfectly."
Goetz played in 23 matches this spring and won 21 of them, one year after playing boys doubles. But this year was Goetz's first state tournament experience, and he soaked it up.
"There was a lot of good talent there," he said. "Insane talent. I hope to be back there next year to see it all again."
Goetz stands a good chance if he maintains his athletic schedule. He gets tennis in when he can during the sport's offseason, and in the winter he stars on Liberty's varsity boys basketball team.
When spring comes around, Goetz doesn't have to work too much on his footwork. So it came down to shot selection, serve technique, conditioning — anything else he could work on to become a more complete player.
"If you want to be good at something you better learn how to do all angles of it," Goetz said. "If you only achieve to do one thing, you better make that great. But if you aim to do two things, make it even better than what it is."
Liberty co-coach Barry Green is usually the one handing out mottos like the one uttered by Goetz. Hearing it from his players, and then seeing the results on the court, makes coaches such as Green all the more pleased.
"That speaks to the heart, of the character, of Steven Goetz," Green said. "Steven is more than just a tremendous athlete who learned to play tennis. He's a tremendous tennis player who is also an athlete."
Green said Liberty had its share of leaders this spring, on both sides of the program. Goetz stood out at times, Green said, because of his willingness to do whatever the coaches asked of him. That translated to his being able to make a smooth transition from singles to mixed doubles, Green said, and do it with style.
"He's very focused. He's extremely disciplined," Green said. "He is an absolute competitive leader. Where most of the kids were getting in one level of practice per day, Steven got in not only the singles practice ... he would double down. Suddenly he's now playing doubles with Abby for a full two or three hours.
"You might ask yourself, 'Wow, how was he able to do all of that with ease, transition from singles mentality to doubles communication?' It's because he put in the work."