2010 Boys Tennis Co-Players of the Year Josh Smith, Truman & Zack Kaltenbach, Blue Springs South.

Zack Kaltenbach knows a thing or two about Josh Smith as a tennis player.

Kaltenbach, a recent graduate of Blue Springs South High School, and Smith a recent graduate of Truman High School, faced off only once this year, but Kaltenbach still has the goods on Smith.

“Me and Josh have played together – we used to play together when we were little and I looked forward to playing him all year,” Kaltenbach said. “I’m glad it was between me and him.”  

The “it” Kaltenbach was referring to was the choice of both he and Smith as The Examiner’s 2010 Boys Tennis Co-Players of the Year.

“It’s an awesome honor,” Kaltenbach said. “I actually wasn’t expecting it.”

Said Smith of the award: “Very cool. I’m very impressed. I didn’t actually expect that and I didn’t know who I was in competition with, but that’s definitely good to hear.”

Both players consistently battled some of the best players in the Kansas City area and Kaltenbach came out on top against Smith in their only match this season.

 “I won 10-2 – we played a 10-game pro set,” Kaltenbach said. “He was gunning for me all year – he kept telling me he was looking forward to playing me and I kind of got a little nervous, you know?

“I’ve played him before and I’ve beaten him before, but they have been pretty competitive matches. Now I’m glad I pull that one out.”

Kaltenbach spent the entire season pulling out wins as he went through the regular season with just three losses and finished third at the Class 2 District 7 tournament for the third consecutive season.

“I thought it was a great season,” Kaltenbach said. “My high school career overall was amazing. I was No. 1 for two years and I finished third in districts every single year just because Rockhurst is in our district.

“It kind of sucks for that, but their whole team goes to state every year.”

Smith has been spending what little idle time he has this summer playing pick-up basketball with friends and golfing, but tennis is his life.

“When tennis takes up so much of your time, it’s kind of hard to do other stuff,” Smith said. “But, I love to golf – I golf all the time now – and I play some pick-up basketball with some of my friends to stay active. I’m always doing some kind of sport.”

The sport for which Smith is known is tennis, and after a senior season that saw him anchor the No. 1 singles spot for the Patriots with a 20-7 record in singles play, and a third place finish at the Class 2 District 8 tournament, the University of Nebraska-Kearney bound Smith looks back on his senior season with great admiration.

He took to the court against the likes of Park Hill’s Sam Barth, Park Hill South’s Griffin Smith and Kearney’s Paul Nurse, all state qualifiers. That Smith didn’t qualify for the state tournament after battling cramps in a district semifinal loss to Barth never took the luster off a tremendous season.

“I don’t measure success based on the last result,” Smith said. “I mean, it’s high school tennis and it was important, but looking back on it, I was really happy with my senior year. I believe going 20-7 – I had a complete season – I beat some guys I didn’t expect to beat and I felt like I advanced myself and more importantly became a leader of the team.”

Smith had good showings in matches against Park Hill South, Lee’s Summit West, Blue Springs South, Liberty, and Kearney, where he took down Nurse. He also finished third at the Suburban North Tournament.

“He had an outstanding year,” Patriots head coach Tara Corwin said. “He had some key wins. Our district and conference was very tough. I thought he had a very strong performance (this season).

“He had a couple of matches this year that I didn’t think he performed at his peak – at districts he got the cramps and I really wished he had gone on to state – but I thought he played very strong. He worked really hard to get where he was at.”

The hard work continues for Smith this summer. Before he takes off for Nebraska-Kearney, Smith has been honing his skills with a workout fit for a tennis pro.

“I’ve been training – weightlifting and running every day,” Smith said, “and playing about four sets of tennis every single day. So, that’s kind of a daily routine.

“I’ve been actually traveling the Midwest and doing tournaments in Nebraska, the Kansas City area and I’m about to do one in Oklahoma City. I’ve got to go where the competition is.”

The summer hasn’t been as strenuous for Kaltenbach. He recently returned to the area from a cruise he took with family and has been spending his free time mowing lawns. Kaltenbach will enroll at Missouri in the fall and plans to major in pre-med. He also plans to try out for Missouri’s club tennis team as well.

“I’ve been on a week-and-a-half cruise with my family,” Kaltenbach said. “I don’t really have a job – I’ve just been mowing yards for my neighbors and I’m trying to hit (tennis balls) whenever I can by calling people up who used to play.

“We went to the western Caribbean. It was my first time. It was very relaxing, actually – it didn’t even feel like you were on a ship. We had all the food and drinks you could ever have in your life. That’s perfect (winning co-player of the year). I’m glad I got that.”