The Mason County girls’ tennis team captured their first 10th Region title since 1991 last spring.
With a strong group returning, the queens of the court are aiming to wear back-to-back crowns.
The Lady Royals will do it with a new coach this year, after Clay Boone took a step back after last season’s run. This year, Matt Jolley will be the guy in charge.
“It’s been going good. It’s frustrating at times, but when you have good kids it makes it fun to get out there and work with them,” said Jolley. “They want to get out there, they listen well, I’m enjoying it and I feel like the kids are enjoying it.”
Tessa Gray took home the individual title with ease last year, cruising by Campbell County’s Paxton Glenn, 6-1, 6-0, in the semifinals and Highlands’ Mia Smith, 6-0, 6-2, in the finals.
The University of the Cumberlands signee claimed a first round state tournament victory before falling to Sacred Heart’s Ella Rueff, and she’s aiming to make it even further this season.
“She had a pretty easy first round. The second round player – just the girl she played – the girl was very consistent. She didn’t hit the ball very hard, but Tessa has to be a little more patient. She’s got to pick her shots a little better,” said Jolley. “I think she could get to the third round if she has a good draw. She actually beat the girl she lost to at state. She beat her at a USTA tournament.”
Haley White and Mallory Conrad beat Highlands’ Jana Riffe and Elizabeth Schwalbach, 3-6, 6-3, 10-4, in the 10th Region doubles finals.
The Highlands’ duo knocked off Harrison County’s Melody and Sara Dunaway in the semifinals. White and Conrad met them in the first round of the state tournament and lost, 6-2, 6-3.
“They could have made it, in my opinion, to the second round, but the other team had a good day and Mallory and Haley I don’t think had their best day. They just need more consistency, to put easy volleys away, make more first serves and put more pressure on the other team,” said Jolley. “They both have the game to do it, it’s just putting it all together.”
The second singles spot will likely be filled by freshman Katie Swisshelm and the third by senior Elise McCabe, while the second doubles team will likely consist of senior Kaitlyn Cottam and junior Maddy McElfresh.
The struggle early for Mason County, as well as other area teams, has been getting out on the court. The team played two matches, but have had their last four called off.
“The weather has to cooperate to get out and work on different parts of game. You can only do so much in MCIS – it’s great to have that facility, but at end of day, you can’t do everything you can do on the tennis court.”
The lack of on-court experience has created some unknowns when it comes to the boys’ lineup, which features only one player the Royals will lose after this season, according to Jolley.
That player is Kevin Schmidt – a student from Brazil. Jolley expects him and junior Gavin Gilbert to take up the top two singles spots, with the third still up in the air. Freshman Nate Campbell could likely fill the spot, or he could end up on one of the doubles teams. If Campbell plays on the first doubles team, it’ll likely be with Josh Coleman. If not, Pearce Clarke will likely get the spot. The second doubles team will likely feature eighth grader Wyatt McElfresh with either Drew Wood or Zane Sanders.
He also didn’t rule out playing Campbell, who got experience as a middle schooler, with others who may not have much experience yet.
“There’s a lot of unknowns right now because we haven’t been able to get matches under our belt,” said Jolley.
Mason County is on spring break this week, but will return to action in a tri-match against Campbell County and Bellevue on April 11.
The Polar Bears and Lady Bears each have players coming back after falling in close matches at last year’s 10th Region Tournament.
Alyssa Bex was one and returns for her junior season as the top singles player for Bracken County.
“She’s really improved, she’s swinging harder, hitting more winners and her serve is getting stronger,” said coach Michael Cannon. “She’s excited about being the number one singles and competing.”
The number two singles player is expected to be Hannah Welte, with the number three likely to be Brianna Smith, but may change depending on availability. The second doubles team will also be dependent on availability, but the first will be Dessie Dunagin and Makenleigh Cooper.
The duo got a bye in the first round of last year’s 10th Region Tournament because the team from Paris withdrew, before falling to a Highlands.
The Polar Bears will fill the top boys’ singles position with John Keuper, who played doubles last season and was part of a team that fell in a tiebreaker during the first round of the region tournament.
Marshall Brown will likely be the number two singles player and Max Milbourne will be third. The first doubles will primarily be Chase Wilson and Logan Teegarden, while Kaden Hall will likely be joined by Keuper or Brown in second doubles.
Lewis County is struggling with numbers in their tennis program, but still have three boys and seven girls on the roster listed on the KHSAA website this spring.
Robert Draper, Damon Kennedy and Dylan Rister are the three boys’, and all will be competing in singles. Draper and Kennedy will also take the court as a doubles team with the hopes of an improving in a tough 16th Region Tournament.
“We’d like to get at least somebody to quarterfinals of regional. They got close last year,” said coach Tony Johnson. “I’d like to at least get the team into the quarterfinals this year for their sake.”
The Lady Lions return three that played last year. Senior Baesha Johnson will fill the top singles spot, while Whitney Cornette will likely be the second singles and Taelyn Johnson will be the third.
The first doubles team is Cornette and Baesha Johnson, while the second is made up of Taelyn Johnson and Haylea Moore.
“Singles girls and doubles are packed. It’s hard to do much with,” said the coach. “Even to make it to the quarterfinals – I’d be ecstatic.”
The Saints will return talent from last year’s team, including brothers Evan and Logan Kalb, who had a first-round bye in last year’s 10th Region Tournament before beating a duo from Paris. They eventually fell in a tiebreaker to Campbell County after winning the first set of the match.
Baylen Bauer was originally supposed to take on Newport Central Catholic’s Brad Blanchet in the tournament. He’s listed back on the roster posted on the KHSAA website with the Kalb brothers, and it also includes Brevin Jones, Patrick McKay, Paul Muehlbauer, Ben Swolsky, Jake Swolsky, Peyton Schumacher, Katie Hord, Anna Porter and Kylie Purdin.
The Panthers have two boys and two girls listed on the KHSAA roster.
John Paul Cordle will likely look to gain experience as an eighth grader, while Garrett Purdon returns after winning a match in the 10th Region Tournament last year. Cordle fell in the tournament to Paris’ Justin Moore.
Sophomore Hallie Mofford and senior Violet Hiles are the two girls’ listed. Hiles was originally scheduled to play Bourbon County’s Morgan Maynard in last year’s region tournament, but withdrew.