Shortly after finishing her latest singles opponent 6-0, 6-0 with a dizzying combination of laser-focused forehands, perfect-touch backhands and a serve that appears to defy the laws of physics by jumping (and seemingly accelerating) at the receiver after contacting the ground — Sarah Goldman is told by an onlooker to smile.
“I am smiling,” she deadpans, as she sits and awaits her doubles match. Undertakers probably smile more.
The Ironwood Ridge sophomore made it to state last year, but got bounced relatively early. She wants more this year.
It has been an uncharacteristically rough start for her Nighthawk team. They lost to powerful Rincon/University and Catalina Foothills by 9-0 scores, but they also suffered lopsided losses to Marana (8-1), Sahuarita (7-2) and Nogales (6-3). Through it all, their roster had been somewhat fluid due to a couple minor injuries and some other off-court stuff. But they finally hit their stride with a win over district opponent Amphi and appeared poised to take on powerhouses Salpointe and Canyon Del Oro in the following week.
Goldman lost her matches to Rincon and Foothills, but the latter one still rankles her to this day. “She won the first set, but I came back and won the second one. So, we went to a tie-breaker.”
In such cases in high-school tennis (where a match is tied at one set apiece), a full third set is not played. Instead, they play a tie-breaker up to 10 points. It’s an exciting and nerve-wracking exercise in skill and will, one in which one bad shot or an out-of-nowhere double fault on a serve can cost a player the entire match.
“Against Foothills, we were battling and (exchanging) ground strokes. It was fun. But, in the tie-breaker, she totally changed her strategy. She started lobbing the ball, just getting it back, waiting for me to mess up. I didn’t adjust well to the change.” She lost the tie-breaker 10-6. “It was a lesson I learned.”
Watching from the sidelines is her father, well-known local immigration attorney, Mo Goldman. While Sarah would love to compete for a state championship before she’s done at Ironwood Ridge, her dad actually was a state champion. He was part of the boys basketball team at Green Fields Country Day School that won a state title under (then) first-year coach Brian Peabody, a Pima County Athletic Hall of Famer who is now at Pima College.
As much as she aims high on the tennis court, her academic endeavors are equally rigorous. Only a sophomore, she is taking physics and intro to calculus — two courses often not taken (if taken at all) until one’s senior year. While she enjoys her math and science classes, she has no idea what she wants to study in college, which is still a long way off.
After taking a short break and hydrating a bit on the first really warm day of the season, she and her doubles partner, Charlotte Pierce, win their doubles match, 8-2.
Then she smiles.
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