One goal left for Gowen

Tennis: Charlotte Gowen has steadily progressed in the county championsips, finishing fourth her freshman year and runner-up last season.

High Schools

April 30, 2000|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Every year for the past three, Charlotte Gowen has inched one step closer to grabbing an elusive goal.

She was fourth as a freshman for Francis Scott Key at the Carroll County Tennis Tournament, third as a sophomore, and a runner-up as a junior last season.

If the pattern holds to form, Gowen could cap her four-year varsity career as the top singles player for the Eagles with her first county championship.

But if she's looking ahead to the tournament, which begins May 12, Gowen doesn't admit it.

"It would be nice to add a first place," she acknowledged. "But with each match, I just go out and try my best. As long as I have given it my best shot, it doesn't matter to me if I win or lose."

Francis Scott Key coach Donna Baker said Gowen is focused on more immediate things.

"We always talk about checking out the other opponent, stretching, getting warmed up," Baker said. "We don't talk about [a county title]."

The road to a shot at the crown began when Gowen picked up tennis at the age of 7. Taught by her parents, Pam and Alan, Charlotte Gowen started playing in United States Tennis Association-sponsored tournaments in the seventh grade.

Gowen's reputation on the court preceded her enrollment at Francis Scott Key, where Baker had been the head coach since 1990.

"I used to play tennis with her mom and some other women," Baker recalled. "I knew they were a tennis family and what I was getting."

Gowen immediately assumed the No. 1 singles position on the Eagles squad. But her development on the high school level got off to a rocky start as she compiled a 2-9 record as a freshman and a 6-6 mark as a sophomore.

Last year as a junior, she went 9-4 and drew the top seed in the county tournament. But Gowen lost, 6-4, 6-4, to No. 2 seed Charis Fulton of North Carroll in the final.

Some players might have carried the disappointment of finishing short of the goal, but Gowen busied herself with soccer, her church's praise choir, and the executive board of the school's student government.

"I have other things going on in my life besides tennis," she said.

Gowen is 8-2 this season and is a major reason why Francis Scott Key is 5-2 in the Monocacy Valley Athletic League.

Baker said that while Gowen has become a more fearless serve-and-volley type of player, she has also improved her cerebral game.

"A lot of singles players sit back and hit groundstrokes. She's a bit more aggressive and knows when to go to the net," Baker said of Gowen. "She has learned to think on her feet."

Junior Sara Caprarola, one-half of the Eagles' No. 1 doubles team and a frequent hitting partner of Gowen's, said her presence in the lineup has had a calming effect on her teammates.

"She's always saying that even if she loses, as long as she did everything she could, she doesn't care if she won or lost," Caprarola said. "She keeps everything positive."

One of Gowen's two losses occurred 10 days ago when North Carroll's Maria Covell defeated her, 6-0, 7-5.

Gowen said that she won't burden herself with any thoughts of revenge.

"The only pressure I put on myself is to play up to the extent of my capabilities," said Gowen, who plans to focus on academics instead of tennis at James Madison University this fall. "I'm disappointed in myself when I don't play as well as I can."

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