GIRLS' PREP TENNIS: Lady Panthers remain the team to beat

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By Josh Claywell

After nearly having its four-year reign atop the 5th Region come to an end last season, the Elizabethtown High School girls’ tennis team appears ready to regain its dominance over the rest of the region.

The Central Hardin Lady Bruins were in the running on the final day of the tournament last year, only to fall short after Elizabethtown’s Amanda Young defeated Central Hardin’s Leanne Caplinger in straight sets for the singles championship.

“Our goal is to always win the region and advance in State as far as we can,” said ninth-year Elizabethtown coach Andrea Atcher. “Our goal is to always get there and then progress when we do.”

Now a senior, Young is back to help lead the Lady Panthers in their quest for a sixth consecutive region title.

“Amanda started with us when she was in fifth grade,” Atcher said. “It was one of those informal things where she came to practice when she could start out. We’ve come to just depend on her. Now she’s the anchor of our team.”

Young, the reigning Area Player of the Year, will be joined by freshmen Jenna Sallee and Emily Cooper as Elizabethtown’s top three singles players.

Junior Jessica Maxwell and seventh-grader Lexi Hazle will be the No. 1 doubles team, while seniors Lydia Youngblood and Emily DuPlessis will be the No. 2 team. “Those are my top seven girls,” Atcher said. “Beyond that, it’s kind of open as to who will play what position.”

CENTRAL HARDIN. Along with Caplinger, second-year coach Jeff Crady will have to replace the No. 1 doubles duo of Amanda Thomas and Jamie Hays, who won the school’s first region crown on the girls’ side.

Also gone is Amy Thomas, who played No. 2 doubles.

“That talent level and leadership is hard to replace,” Crady said. “I have many girls with skill, but not the experience at match play like those girls have.”

Senior Stacie Wallace takes over for Caplinger at the No. 1 singles spot, while junior Kate Masterson will be No. 2 and sixth-grader Hannah Thomas will be No. 3. “Hannah is looking really good. Once her serve strengthens, she will be a complete player,” Crady said.

Seniors Paige Berger and Kaitlin Blair comprise the No. 1 doubles team. Berger moves from No. 2 singles, while Blair moves up from No. 2 doubles.

“Kaitlin and Paige are looking very sharp together,” Crady said. “There seems to be a new level of confidence in them, and I have high expectations for them as well.”

Senior Lindsey Skaggs and sophomore Courtney Gandy will be the No. 2 doubles team, while juniors Rachel Nevill and Hannah Williams will be No. 3.

JOHN HARDIN. The Lady Bulldogs lost two players from last year n graduate Erika Glover and senior Shaylin Gimborys n but return seniors Amanda Quiggins and Madeline Gagel as well as sophomores Megan Edlin and Angie Lewis.

Quiggins moves to doubles and will team with Gagel on the No. 1 team, while Edlin and Lewis will anchor the top two spots in singles.

“The heart of our team will be our two singles players, Edlin and Lewis, and our No. 1 doubles team, Gagel and Quiggins,” said John Hardin coach Mike McCune. “We will go as far as those four lead us.”

Junior Katharine Sullivan will play No. 2 doubles or No. 3 singles, while junior Sonya Parker will most likely play No. 2 doubles, eighth-grader Katie Ragland will be at No. 3 singles, freshman Brenda Parker will play No. 2 doubles or No. 3 singles and juniors Shae Mitchell and Katelin Shouse could see time at No. 2 doubles.

“We have some good depth this year with Sonya Parker, Katharine Sullivan, Katie Ragland, Shae Mitchell, Brenda Parker and Katelin Shouse. All could see some varsity action this year,” McCune said.

NORTH HARDIN. The Lady Trojans lost their top two singles players, Amy Edwards and Jennifer Lane, and one-half of a doubles team — Ashley Corum — but coach Debbye Blair thinks she has a strong core of returning players to fill the voids left behind.

Junior Hannah Jeffries will move from doubles to No. 1 singles this season, while junior Kaela Vessels will play No. 2.

“Hannah has a lot of natural ability but she also has a lot of personal drive to be the best she can be in anything she tries. She is a team leader and has a lot of self motivation,” Blair said. “Kaela has really put a lot of effort in her game and has made vast improvements.”

Junior Samantha Hester will move from doubles to No. 3 singles.

The No. 1 doubles team will be seniors Nina Debibar and Jennifer Markham, while junior Catie Baker will team with senior Ashley Boles on the No. 2 team.

LARUE COUNTY. Seniors Maggie Russell and Kristyn Brey alternated time at No. 1 and No. 2 singles last season, and coach Chris Estes will look to do much of the same this year.

“I will use similar tactics as last year with Maggie and Kristyn playing them both at No. 1 during specific matches,” Estes said. “Both will be attempting to improve their seeding and regional placements from last season.”

LaRue County also returns senior Shelby Haun and eighth-grader Michelle Seymour (No. 1 doubles) and juniors Hannah Canter, Christina Simpson and eighth-graders Nancy Howell and Amelia Miller (No. 2 doubles).

“Michelle Seymour and Shelby Haun will lead the girls in doubles,” Estes said. “Their improved consistency and chemistry will make them a very strong match in our region.”

The Lady Hawks won a school-record 16 matches last season, and Estes hopes to build on that success.

“We have a good mix of talented experience and youth on this year’s team,” Estes said. “The girls’ team goals for the season are to continue regular season success, improve overall placement in conference and regional tournament and send more players to the state tournament.”

FORT KNOX. Junior Lauren DeLaRosa will step into the No. 1 singles spot for the Lady Eagles.

“Lauren worked hard in the offseason to improve her game,” said Fort Knox coach Tina Bal. “Her focus is on ball placement and improving her swing. She has been taking lessons in Louisville and it has certainly improved her overall game.”

Senior Precy Baltazar, last year’s No. 1 singles player, will flank DeLaRosa at No. 2.

“She continues to bring powerful serves and returns on the court,” Bal said of Baltazar. “She has a strong work ethic and is eager to bring in some wins this season.”

Junior Macy Stokes, who transferred in at the beginning of the school year, will play No. 3.

Senior Patricia Perez and freshman Natasha Moore comprise the No. 1 doubles team, sophomore Kyrie Oiszowy and eighth-grader Krista Whitaker are No. 2 and seniors Marrisa Morris and Schalashly Marrero will be No. 3 when needed.

MEADE COUNTY. Second-year coach Amber English is taking the year off due to the upcoming birth of her first child.

Michele Miller will take over for the Lady Waves while English is away from the team.

Josh Claywell can be reached at 505-1752