Like most teams this spring, the Mason County tennis team has struggled to get matches in due to the rain.
But the Lady Royals have squeezed in three matches in the last three days, including a 4-1 victory over Highlands on Friday, as they prepare for the 10th Regional Tournament next weekend at Montgomery County.
“This is our third match in a row. We had a match on Wednesday away at Harrison County. Then we drove all the way to Clark County last night and now we’re out here tonight for our last home match,” said Mason County coach Matt Jolley.
“The weather – it’s been an issue. It’s kind of a catch-22, because you can’t really practice but you’re getting practice in your matches. I like doing this for right now,” added Jolley. “I tried to space it out a day in between in the schedule, just so we could get some practice and work on things in between because we’re having to change things in the match that we could be changing in practice and could really work on.”
Tessa Gray claimed the first victory of the day for Mason County, knocking off Highlands’ Booke Hodory, 6-2, 6-1.
“It feels good to look around and see how well we’re competing against them, since they have been such a good team in the past,” said Gray. “We’ve worked hard in the time that we can get outside and we’ve gone inside to condition, but it feels good to be competing.”
For Gray, it was a familiar opponent. She beat the Highlands’ senior during the region quarterfinal at Harrison County last spring, 6-0, 6-0, on the way to a singles title. The Mason County senior and University of the Cumberlands tennis signee is hoping to make it two individual titles in a row.
“To repeat, I hope to just keep playing my game and not let the other player control the point and just to stay consistent,” added Gray.
The doubles team from Mason County of Haley White and Mallory Conrad claimed the Lady Royals second win. The reigning regional doubles champions took the first set over Rachel Hoffmann and Elizabeth Schwalbach, 6-1.
The second set came a little closer, as Hoffmann and Schwalbach forced a tiebreaker. The Lady Royals’ pair took the first three points, before eventually claiming the match.
“I wasn’t getting balls over that I probably should have,” said Conrad. “Just trying to put it together.”
“We got up 3-0 and they came back and she [Conrad] just looked at me and said, ‘Let’s get this,” said White. “It was just that last point that we both just kind of battled and felt really good.”
The pair were coming off of a tough match at George Rogers Clark the previously night and on Wednesday the Lady Royals were at Harrison County.
“I added it up earlier when we were out there – we’re playing, I think, four matches in 84 hours, granted tomorrow [Saturday] doesn’t get rained out,” said White.
Meanwhile, Kaitlyn Cottam was in a battle of her own. Cottam claimed a close first set, 6-4, before Highlands’ Ashtyn Heiert won the second, 6-2. The Mason County senior took the tiebreaker, 10-4, when Heiert hit one too deep.
“Kaitlyn Cottam really surprised us. She played a good match. She’s a grinder and we needed her match. The momentum could have changed if she didn’t get that number two singles win and say we lose that second set with the number one doubles. It’s little points here and there and both of them went to tiebreakers – Kaitlyn went to a third set super tiebreaker and our number one doubles had to play a tiebreaker in the second set,” said Jolley. “It could have easily been flipped 4-1 – they could have won 4-1, or 3-2.”
The second doubles team of Rachel Rister and Katie Swisshelm topped the team of Ada Donelan and Reagan Lindeman, 6-4, 6-1, before Elise McCabe fell to Megan Benzing in the final match.
Mason County is hoping to claim a second straight 10th Region title, after getting their first in 26 years last season.
“We’re just going to have to play consistent. We’ve done pretty well up until this point. We lost to Harrison County on Wednesday, 3-2. We’ve just got to make some changes. Our girls, up until that point, everything was kind of coming easy to them,” said Jolley. “They weren’t really being pushed, so that was our first real test, especially at number one doubles and they lost that match, and it kind of lit a fire under them.”
The 10th Region tennis tournament is scheduled to start next Friday, with matches taking place all day that day and Saturday. The action is scheduled to resume on Monday, May 7, to crown champions.