August 23, 2014
Tennis Player Serves up Stellar Season with Trip to NCAA Tournament
June 2, 2014
UT Dallas junior Casey Johnson wasn’t going to miss another shot at the NCAA Division III national championship tournament. Last year, wrist problems kept her from playing in the event.
Casey Johnson grew up playing tennis at Canyon Creek Country Club in Richardson, but she never imagined she would one day attend the nearby University of Texas at Dallas.
Fast-forward to 2014, and she has become one of the best NCAA Division III women’s tennis players in the country as a member of UT Dallas’ team.
Johnson, a marketing junior from Plano, was one of 32 singles players chosen to compete in the NCAA Division III national championship tournament last month in Claremont, Calif.
It was the second year in a row she was selected. In 2013, wrist problems kept her from playing, but this time, she wasn’t going to miss it.
“I’m nervous, because I want to do well, but I feel like I’m playing the best I’ve played. All my shots are coming together and I’m relaxed,” Johnson said in a phone interview before the tournament.
“Going to nationals is huge to me,” said Johnson, the only player from the American Southwest Conference (ASC) who competed in the tournament.
The UT Dallas women’s tennis team advanced to the American Southwest Conference title match for the third straight year this spring, finishing second.
Although Johnson lost 6-1, 6-2 to Brandeis University’s Carley Cooke, her selection to the national tournament was just the latest accolade for her this spring.
Before the tournament, Johnson posted a flawless 11-0 record in singles play while helping the Comets make their third consecutive appearance in the ASC’s title match.
She also was named the ASC’s Player of the Year after picking up her second straight first-team All-ASC honor in April.
In her two seasons with UT Dallas, Johnson has tallied a 22-2 singles record. Her only other defeat came last season in the Comets’ team loss in the NCAA tournament.
Career singles record: 22-2
Career doubles record: 22-6
Honors: 2014 American Southwest Conference Player of the Year; two-time All-ASC first-team selection; two-time selection to NCAA Division III tournament; 2012-13 UT Dallas Student-Athlete of the Year
What makes Johnson so good is that she maintains her game, no matter the circumstances, said UT Dallas head tennis coach Bryan Whitt, who has led both the men’s and women’s teams for the past 10 seasons.
“She’s just even all the way through. No matter the circumstances, she’s even-keeled. She doesn’t get rattled. That’s especially important in singles tennis, when it all depends on you,” Whitt said.
He predicted a strong season again for Johnson next year.
“Casey is one of the most talented players in this conference. You take that and put the work in, and good things happen,” said Whitt, who has been named ASC Coach of the Year four times.
Johnson said her desire to play tennis comes naturally. Her mother and father met while playing tennis, and Johnson’s mother continued to play while she was pregnant.
So it was no surprise that Johnson began playing tennis when she was 5 years old. By the time she was 10, she was competing in tournaments. In high school at the Shelton School in Dallas, Johnson won state titles all four years.
“I just like competing,” Johnson said. “Doubles is my favorite because of the team element.”
After transferring from Stephen F. Austin University to UT Dallas a year ago, Johnson knew she wanted to continue her tennis career. And she recalled tracking the growth on campus whenever she played at the nearby country club.
“It’s been amazing to see the changes over the last 10 to 15 years on the campus. I never thought I’d go to school here. It’s been a blessing for me to be here,” she said.