By Tim Lima
---- — NEWBURYPORT — A one-sport athlete, Newburyport tennis’ senior captain Chris Kirkpatrick focuses on tennis year round, and it shows. After losing just once his junior year, he has yet to be defeated midway through his senior season.
A stellar tennis player, Kirkpatrick has also benefitted his team by exhibiting strong leadership. While vast talent oftentimes creates poor leadership, Kirkpatrick’s abilities on the court have only strengthened his skills as a captain.
“He comes to every practice,” Gilman said. “He always has a good attitude and is more than willing to help everyone else improve. When you have guys that good, they don’t always want to practice with the team and want to do their own thing. Chris is never like that. He brings everything to the team that he can.”
Though his team has struggled and is just 1-5, Kirkpatrick is a perfect 6-0 with seven matches remaining in the regular season. It’s an accomplishment that has his coach both thinking and expecting awards for his senior captain.
“He’s definitely the best tennis player in our league,” Newburyport head coach Courtney Gilman said. “He’s definitely going to win the CAL and will be seeded in the state individual tournament, where I hope he can go a long way.”
Along with a possible state title run, Kirkpatrick is eying an award that many feel he earned last year. With just one loss, he beat many of the CAL’s best athletes but fell short of winning Player of the Year honors, something Gilman believes to be due to several reasons.
“His one loss was against someone who he wouldn’t be competing against for the award,” Gilman said. “He beat the best kids and lost one close match, but it’s more that he wasn’t a senior. It’s not suppopsed to be a senior award, but some of the guys that vote feel that it’s more of an all-around thing. They want a good captain, good athlete, good kid and usually a senior. This year, he fits the bill.”
Winning the award is also due to a proper sell-job by the coach, as it is CAL coaches that cast votes. This year, Gilman plans to push hard for his captain to get him the award he feels is deserving.
“I’m going to sell him as much as I can,” he said. “With his record and everything, I’m going to push for Player of the Year. Along with his record, he is a kid of great character. It just comes natural to him. He’s more of a quiet kid and leads by example. He’s a good, solid kid.”
His achievements this season have been a direct result of the work he has put toward his sport. While many of high school’s best athletes are involves in many sports, Kirkpatrick plays just one and dedicates seven days a week over 12 months to his craft.
“It was tough not winning Player of the Year last year, but I feel like I’ve gotten better in the off-season and am older. I feel like I’m a lot stronger on the court this year. I worked out a lot and tried to improve my serve so I was making points quicker. I worked out in the gym at school, and played tennis mostly every day of the week. I took part in off-season tournaments on the weekends as well.”
Kirkpatrick will be attending Endicott College in the fall, where he will be playing collegiate tennis. Before that, however, he has his senior season of high school to focus on and possible awards to accept.
“It would mean a lot to me to win Player of the Year,” Kirkpatrick said. “I put the hard work and effort in. To beat the competition would be a nice way to go out as a senior.”