Gabe Johnson

NORTH NEWTON — Tony Hoops, director of Athletics at Bethel College, has announced the hiring of Gabe Johnson as head coach for the Thresher women’s and men’s tennis programs.

Johnson replaces previous head coach Matthew Barlow, who will be transitioning to the University of Nebraska-Omaha (NCAA DI) to coach their men’s tennis team.

“We wish Matthew all the best in his new role,” Hoops said. “Coaching at the Division I level is something he has aspired to do and so we respect his decision and thank him for allowing Bethel to be a small part of his story.”

Barlow was hired as the head coach of the Thresher tennis programs in July, following a successful tenure at Washburn University (NCAA DII), Topeka, as a player and assistant coach.

“Even though it was a short stop, I am so thankful for my time spent at Bethel College,” offered Barlow. “God is definitely present at this special place and moving through so many staff and students.”

Barlow went on to thank Hoops and the coaching staff at Bethel for “teaching me so much and making this an amazing experience.”

Replacing Barlow will be Gabe Johnson, a name well known in the Bethel community.

“Gabe Johnson is who and what Bethel College tennis is all about,” Hoops said. “A tremendous player, student, teammate and person. He is the right person for this job.

“His passion for Bethel College tennis is contagious. This program needs the stability that Gabe Johnson will bring to it and I look forward to watching him lay the foundation for great things to come under his leadership.”

Johnson graduated from Bethel in May following a successful playing career with the men’s tennis program.

He earned a KCAC Men’s Tennis Player of the Week nod his sophomore season, and was a two-time KCAC Sportsmanship Award winner.

As a senior, Johnson helped the 2019 squad to their first winning record in conference action since 2014.

“This is a great opportunity here at Bethel College,” Johnson said. “I am extremely thankful to Tony Hoops and the Bethel College staff for believing in me and providing me the chance to return to my alma mater.

“In my four years as a student-athlete, I was able to see firsthand the growth and development of the athletics department. It is a great staff that they have put together here and it is an honor to be joining the team.”

A stellar student-athlete, Johnson earned NAIA-Daktronics Scholar-Athlete status in both his junior and senior seasons.

He was also selected to the CoSIDA Academic All-District team his senior season, an honor given to students who excel in both the classroom and on the court.

“Bethel College has been a special place in my life and development as a person,” said Johnson.

“My time here as a player provided me so much in terms of experience and growth, so I am very excited to have the opportunity to return to lead the tennis programs. Being chosen as the head coach for a historically great Bethel College tennis program is a huge honor.”

“Throughout a difficult past year of coaching transition, I’ve had the opportunity to work with Gabe as a captain of the team,” Hoops said.

“During this time, it became very apparent to me that he would be a tremendous head coach in the future. While I didn’t anticipate that time being this year, the time is now and I have complete confidence in his professionalism, coaching, and leadership.”

Johnson, originally from Abilene, has most recently been the tennis pro at Genesis Health Club in Salina.

Johnson said he is ready to begin leading the Bethel tennis program, which will begin their fall season later this month, on Oct. 28.

“Each program has remained a consistently solid competitor within the conference,” Johnson said, “and we will continue to work to raise the level of both the men’s and women’s teams.

“We know what Bethel tennis has been and can continue to be, and our goal will be to carry on that tradition of success.”

Contact Ron Preston at sports@abilene-rc.com.

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