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If there’s one thing the Elizabethtown girls’ tennis team can take away from State Team Sectionals on Saturday, it’s that they’ll be well-prepped for what’s to come this week.
The Lady Panthers split a pair of matches in an up-and-down day against hard-hitting South Oldham and Louisville Sacred Heart in their final tune-up before the state tournament begins Thursday in Lexington.
“There aren’t many hard-hitting people around town, so to get to play these consistent hard-hitters is a fun time,” said Elizabethtown junior Natalie Fiepke. “And to be right before State, which is what we’ll see there, it’s like a perfect setup for us.”
The Lady Panthers rallied to beat South Oldham, 3-2 in the morning session at Freeman Lake Park to advance to the round of eight. Sacred Heart overpowered Elizabethtown as it won three matches and led the other two when the victory was secured.
Fiepke had the best showing against Sacred Heart as she dropped the first set to University of Louisville-bound junior Caroline Walker, 6-3 but led 1-0 in the second set when play was halted.
The rest of the Lady Panthers combined to win just three games, but the experience will be beneficial when Fiepke, seniors Mary-Chapin Snow, Lexy Hazle and Lauren Riney and sophomores Lauran Berger and Mackenzie Snow begin the state tournament.
“Both matches today gave us the heads-up of what we have to be ready for next week,” Elizabethtown coach Karen Henson said. “We haven’t had a match like that all-around since we went to Lexington in the middle of April, so it was good for them to be able to hit against so much power. We hit the ball well and were making really good shots.”
Trailing 2-1 against South Oldham, Elizabethtown got a huge lift from freshman Carly Pyles.
In her first match since the region tournament, Pyles showed little rust in her 6-4, 6-3 win over seventh-grader Katelyn Reed.
“You hope that you pull through,” Pyles said. “It feels good to know that they can fall back on me if they need me.”
Pyles victory evened the score at 2-2 and that meant the fate of the match was in the hands of Mary-Chapin Snow and Mackenzie Snow.
The sisters said they knew the match would come down to them since everyone else was done and their match hadn’t been stopped, but that didn’t seem to affect them.
“I noticed but I just didn’t really care,” Mackenzie Snow said. “We don’t let the pressure affect us.”
Fresh off their second straight region championship, the Snows beat freshmen Jennifer Liu and Hannah Walker, 6-2, 6-4.
Trailing 3-2 in the second set, the increase in spectators seemed to refocus Mackenzie and Mary-Chapin Snow.
“Everyone watching helped,” Mary-Chapin Snow said. “We wanted to speed up play a little bit and hit the right shots.”
Hazle and Riney also registered a victory in the morning, defeating junior Linsey Boerrigter and freshman Josie Olliges, 6-1, 6-2.
Ryan O’Gara can be reached at (270) 505-1754 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
SATURDAY’S STATE RESULTS
Elizabethtown3, South Oldham 2
Steffi Pitts (SO) def. Natalie Fiepke (E), 6-0, 6-2
Natalie Dearen (SO) def. Lauran Berger (E), 6-1, 6-1
Carly Pyles (E) def. Katelyn Redd (SO), 6-4, 6-3
Mackenzie Snow/Mary-Chapin Snow (E) def. Jennifer Liu/Hannah Walker (SO), 6-2, 6-4
Lexy Hazle/Lauren Riney (E) def. Linsey Boerrigter/Josie Olliges (SO), 6-1, 6-2
Sacred Heart 3, ELIZABETHTOWN 0
Caroline Walker (SH) led Natalie Fiepke (E), 6-3, 0-1
Abbey MacMillan (SH) def. Lauran Berger (E), 6-0, 6-1
Natalie Dahlom (SH) led Carly Pyles (E), 6-0, 5-1
Katherine English/Sydney Thompson (SH) def. Mackenzie Snow/Mary-Chapin Snow (E), 6-0, 6-1
Erin MacMillan/Mary Elaine Kuo (SH) def. Lexy Hazle/Lauren Riney (E), 6-0, 6-1