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One glance at the bracket and it’s clear the area boys will have their work cut out for them in the KHSAA State Tennis Tournament in Lexington.
The first round begins today, and three of the five boys’ entries drew seeded opponents. The girls were much more fortunate as none of the seven entries face a seed in their openers.
For the second year in a row, the weather is messing with the schedule. With the forecast calling for rain, the boys’ doubles matches have already been moved to Eastern Kentucky University, while boys’ singles will remain at the University of Kentucky. All girls’ matches have been moved from Shillito Park to the Lexington Tennis Center.
The weather isn’t the only thing strangely similar to last year. All three area boys’ doubles teams drew seeds last year, and the area’s top singles player and top doubles pairing couldn’t avoid the same fate this year. John Hardin’s Tyler Edlin, the Lincoln Heritage Conference Tournament champion and 5th Region Tournament runner-up, faces fifth-seeded Lexington Henry Clay junior Ryo Takeda at 10:30 a.m. Meade County seniors Daniel Orr and Ethan Wright, who won the conference and region, face Lexington Catholic’s fifth-seeded duo of freshman Ryan Crump and senior Matthew Ko. John Hardin’s Carson McCann is matched up with fourth-seeded Ashland Rose Hill Christian senior David Bush.
Edlin and McCann both played at State last season, while Orr and Wright qualified for the third time.
“(The key is to) be confident, know matter who you’re going to play,” Wright said. “Last year we drew 9-seeds and we thought there was really no chance, but pretty much every single game went to deuce. So you’ve just got to be tough and gut it out.”
The State rookies were much more fortunate with Elizabethtown senior Daniel Crain and freshman Nathan Henson drawing Paducah St. Mary junior Andre Muniz and senior Ben Smith at 9:15 a.m., and Central Hardin senior Joel Nason squaring off with Lawrence County junior Jake West at 10:30 a.m.
“I expect to play someone who is really good, but I’m not going to worry about it,” Nason said. “I’m just going to play. I’ll play loose and relaxed.”
No area boy reached the second round last year.
On the girls’ side, Elizabethtown senior Natalie Fiepke is the lone singles player who wouldn’t have to play a seed until the second day, while North Hardin freshman Hannah Lowman and eighth-grader Allie Sutton and Elizabethtown eighth-grader Laura Hinkle and sophomore Carley Pyles also received favorable draws.
Fiepke, who is a two-time region singles champion and is playing at State for the fourth straight year, knows the mindset she must have to reach her goal of playing in the third round. She opens with Louisville Ballard junior Morgan Malone at 8 a.m.
“It is the state tournament, but you have to look at it just as any other tournament,” Fiepke said. “If you don’t, you get all tense and nervous because you think you have to do very well. Really, the state tournament is made up of very young kids who are amazing.”
Lowman and Sutton face South Oldham sophomores Jennifer Liu and Hannah Walker at 2 p.m., while Hinkle and Pyles are matched up with Montgomery County juniors Breanna Crump and Sara Karaus at 12:30 p.m.
Central Hardin senior Emily Novak, the region runner-up the last two seasons, opens with Ashland Blazer sophomore Lauren Fazenbaker at 8 a.m. Elizabethtown junior Lauran Berger, who won her State opener last year, faces North Oldham senior Rhegan Riggs at 8 a.m., while North Hardin junior Amanda Patterson squares off with Letcher County Central sophomore Brittney Wright at 10:15 a.m.
Elizabethtown sophomore Toni Pfeiffer and junior Mackenzie Snow face Johnson Central junior Mikayla Estepp and sophomore Savannah Spurlock at 1:45 p.m. Snow reached the third round at State last year with her graduated sister, Mary-Chapin -- the lone area entry to do so.
Novak is at State for the third and final time, and it’s an opportunity she hasn’t taken for granted.
“Don’t worry about who it is you’re going to play,” Novak said. “Whether you get matched up against the girl who is going to win State, or some girl you can beat, just go out and have fun. You’re lucky to go to State, and not many people get to go. It’s a great privilege. Embrace it and have fun, that’s what I would say.”
Ryan O’Gara can be reached at 270-505-1754 or email@example.com.