Lexi Johnson spent her first two years as a doubles player for Paonia. One of seven juniors playing for Paonia, she has partnered the last two seasons with Rosa Medina. Together they were putting together some good matches as 1 doubles.
Photo by Tamie Meck
Paonia head tennis coach Kyle Banks gives 2 singles player Lexi Johnson some pointers between sets at the annual match against Hotchkiss. Johnson was a two-year doubles player and suddenly found herself playing at 2 singles.
Early in the season, 2 singles player Tyler Rapke was forced to quit due to a recurring foot injury, but said she will continue to travel with the team.
Johnson figured she and Medina would finish the season as a team, but with Rapke out, head coach Kyle Banks suggested she move up to singles. She challenged 3 singles Kayla Wilczek for the No. 2 spot and won.
"I didn't expect it at all," said Johnson. "I knew maybe next year I would play (singles)."
Johnson has yet to pull together a win, but she's getting close, said Banks. She lost last Tuesday to Aspen's Caroline DeRosa, who had just moved up from 3 singles, "But it could be worse," said Johnson. There were strong winds that afternoon, which resulted in a lot of lost shots. "We double-faulted in serves a lot, both of us."
"Lexi's scores have not represented how well she is doing," said head coach Kyle Banks. "I love her as a singles player because I know she will work hard and hustle for every point."
Johnson, whose sister Kaitlyn is a senior doubles player, said that she had little experience on the court. She learned from her dad, who dabbled in the sport in college. "My freshman year I decided at the last minute to start, and I love it," she said at a recent practice. She enjoyed having a partner, but playing on her own is "way different. I like it better in some ways because I'm more accountable for my mistakes, and for my wins, too. It's a lot more personal, I guess, which I love."
And more challenging? "Yes, definitely more challenging. A lot more running. I'm definitely going through more water and running a lot more than I ever did with doubles."
"We are working on shot consistency, placement and the appropriate time to approach the net," said Banks. "I see great potential and she keeps improving every match."
Johnson said that she's working to improve on one of her biggest weaknesses: her forehand form. "I have the right form, but I sometimes don't use it. Like, I forget about it," she said.
Johnson is also expecting a challenge from Wilczek again early this week. Wherever she ends up, she's certain she'll still enjoy the game. With one year remaining in her high school career, she plans to practice some this summer, but nothing too serious. She hopes to continue playing long after high school, and for now she's improving. "Yes, definitely improving," she said before heading back to practice drills. "I love it. It's so much fun."
Medina is now paired with freshman Laura Lund, whom Banks said early in the season is picking up the sport very rapidly. Medina said she misses having Johnson with her on the court because they knew each other's strengths and weaknesses very well, but is adjusting quickly to her new partner. "It's going really good," said Medina. "I think the only thing we lack on is talking, and that's about it."
Aspen is known for its competitiveness, and for small schools like Paonia to get a win against them is rare. One singles Annavah Kropp posted the only win for Paonia, defeating Caroline Godfrey, 6-3, 7-5.
"She handled herself well," said Banks. "She was aggressive and it paid off."
Paonia hosted the Montrose Indians Tuesday, and will face Cortez, at Delta, this Friday at 4 p.m. On Saturday, they face Roaring Fork at Carbondale beginning at 10 a.m., then face Glenwood Springs at Glenwood beginning at 2 p.m.