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In their bid to repeat as Lincoln Heritage Conference champions, the Central Hardin Bruins got off to a strong start Wednesday.
The Bruins got victories from fourth-seeded senior Joel Nason and sophomore Jacob Kerr in singles play and their newly formed doubles team of seniors Kevin Britt and Kyle Compton in the first round at Freeman Lake Park. The three entries combined to drop just one set.
The Bruins and Lady Bruins were the lone squads to win three matches as all of the seeded entries in action advanced. The top two seeds in each bracket – aside from boys’ doubles, which was the top three seeds – received byes and will begin play today.
The Bruins graduated half of their title-winning squad from last season, but Nason said there’s no pressure to duplicate that kind of performance.
“I’m not worried about last year,” Nason said. “I’m worried about this year.
“If we want to win the region again,” he added, “we have to show we can win conference.”
Britt, who played singles last year and opened this season playing singles, looked comfortable playing with Compton as they rolled past Fort Knox’s Robert Bell and Will Ostlund, while Kerr topped Fort Knox’s Derek Gullick.
Nason cruised to a 6-0, 6-0 victory over North Hardin’s Ryan Martin. After playing doubles last season, Nason is back where he feels most comfortable.
“I need to work on my consistency. I’ll lose focus sometimes, start missing shots,” Nason said. “When I’m on, it feels good, but I need to be able to play full matches without losing my focus.”
The lone boys’ match to go to a third-set tiebreaker featured LaRue County sophomore Preston Howell rallying past Elizabethtown senior Ibrahim Siddiqui, 3-6, 7-5, 1-0 (10-2).
After taking a 2-1 lead in the first set, Howell struggled the rest of the set. He regrouped in the second and carried that momentum over to the tiebreaker.
“I just had so much adrenaline in the first set and dropped four games really quick,” Howell said, “but I finally came back in the second set and just kept it going into the tiebreaker.”
Howell’s reward for the hard-fought victory? He faces top-seeded John Hardin senior Tyler Edlin in the quarterfinals today.
“You have to hit everything in and hope for the best,” Howell said of playing Edlin.
Third-seeded John Hardin sophomore Carson McCann, North Hardin sophomore Jonah Gillespie and Meade County’s Mac Montgomery earned wins in singles, while the fourth-seeded John Hardin duo of freshman Herbert Veldenz and eighth-grader Nathan Anderson, North Hardin juniors Hunter Maxwell and Alex Hardy, Elizabethtown freshman Hunain Abri and junior Hassan Nasir and LaRue County senior Michael Brey and John Michael Lawler advanced in doubles.
On the girls’ side, the Elizabethtown Lady Panthers began their quest for an 11th straight title with a singles win by third-seeded junior Lauran Berger and a doubles victory from the duo of eighth-grader Laura Hinkle and sophomore Carly Pyles.
In four of the last five years, the Lady Panthers have had the top two doubles teams in the conference. After losing three of its four doubles players to graduation, Elizabethtown is relying on the inexperienced team of Hinkle and Pyles to supplement its top-seeded duo of junior Mackenzie Snow and sophomore Toni Pfeiffer.
So far, so good as Hinkle and Pyles rolled to a 6-0, 6-1 victory over Fort Knox’s Maria Ament and Breanna DeCrissio.
“We haven’t played together too much,” Hinkle said. “I’ve known her for a while though, so it’s been OK. I think we play together pretty well.”
North Hardin junior Amanda Patterson was tested right away but escaped with a hard-fought win over Fort Knox junior Maria Rogers, 6-1, 6-4.
“I like a competitive match just because it gets me ready for the next one if I win,” Patterson said. “It’ll prepare me better for tomorrow.
“I just tried to keep more balls in play,” she added, “and when I had the shot to go for it, I did.”
Fourth-seeded Central Hardin junior Riley Keys, John Hardin senior Kristine Herrera and LaRue County juniors Madison Lee and Caitlin Lewis advanced in singles.
The third-seeded Central Hardin duo of senior Ashlee O’Brien and sophomore Kayla Ditto, John Hardin seniors Aliyah Bilal and Kelly Conklin, Central Hardin sophomores Hadley Handel and Chloe Sheeran, North Hardin freshman Mary Kate Dennis and sixth-grader Addison Sutton and Meade County’s Cassidy Adams and Collyn Bradley picked up doubles wins.
Ryan O’Gara can be reached at 270-505-1754 or firstname.lastname@example.org.