LEXINGTON – The second round of the state tournament has been a nemesis to Mason County’s Tessa Gray.
Thursday was no different for the two-time 10th Region champ. After making light work of LaRue County’s Karrington Donahue, 6-0, 6-2 in the first round at the Lexington Tennis Club indoor courts, the senior was unable to get past North Oldham’s Katie Beavin in the second round at University of Kentucky’s Hilary J. Boone’s Tennis Complex, dropping the over two-hour, highly competitive match 6-4, 6-3 on one of the stadium courts.
“It was the best I’ve ever seen Tessa play,” Mason County coach Matt Jolley said. “To lose and say that’s the best I’ve ever seen her play is good. That girl (Beavin) is just a really good player. Tessa is a role model for this program and one that has set the bar here for a long time.”
Slow starts in each set proved to be too much to overcome as the senior lost to the No. 5 overall seed in the tournament.
Gray started down 4-1 before rallying back to 5-4 in the first set. Her service game was broke to close out the set. The second set, Gray fell down 3-0, battled back to get to 3-3, before dropping the final three games and bowing out of the tournament.
A point here or there in certain games could have shifted the match one way or another. At 5-4 and 30-all in the first set, Beavin closed out the set with the final two points to take it.
With the momentum clearly on the North Oldham’s freshman’s side, she’d take the first three games in the second set as Gray dealt with some unforced errors.
But the University of Cumberlands signee wasn’t ready to be finished yet. She’d battle for two straight games that took over 15 minutes apiece to get back within 3-2. Gray would then hold serve to knot the second set up.
“I was trying to make the match last as long as possible because she was getting tired and frustrated while at the same time I was getting tired, but felt like I could fight it out,” Gray said.
Beavin responded though as she held serve, broke Gray’s serve and closed the match out in her service game.
“She’s a good player, she’s very consistent and she challenged me and sometimes it doesn’t work out,” Gray said.
The loss caps off one of the best careers in Mason County girls’ tennis history as Gray claimed two 10th Region titles and helped the Lady Royals win back-to-back 10th Region team titles.
“It’s been a journey. This is my family. It’s going to be hard without them next year,” Gray said. “We’ve been fighting for the region title for so long to knock Highlands off and to be able to accomplish that, especially in back-t0-back seasons it feels pretty good.”
Gray will now head to Cumberlands to continue her tennis and academic career.
“I’m looking forward to playing new players. Around here everyone knows everyone. It’s going to be a lot harder, more competition, better competition, which will make me better and condition all the time. I hope my game overall will get a lot better,” Gray said.
The St. Patrick boys’ doubles duo of brothers Logan and Evan Kalb were making their first ever apperance in the state tournament and wasted no time getting their feet wet. They’d roll to a first round victory over Knott County Central’s Austin Hesston and Bryson Honeycutt, 6-0, 6-0, barely breaking a sweat in the match that was played indoors at Top Seed Tennis in Nicholasville. The two only reached duece twice in games in the match, all other games were won by giving up two points or less in each game.
“We just placed the ball well, were able to get our serves in and hit a lot of good shots,” Evan said. “Overall consistency was good. This was a good experience and this was our first time and overall a good time.”
They’d run into their toughest competition yet this season, dropping the second round match to Villa Madonna’s Yamaan Ahmad and Robert Spicker, 6-1, 6-0. With Logan being a junior and Evan a freshman, the Saints duo knows what it takes come this time next year.
“You come into state you don’t know what to really expect being our first time. We had a little easier match first round and second match we had our hands full,” Logan said. “We plan on playing in a lot of tournaments, getting a lot of experience to get us ready for next year.”
The last of area participants to compete at the state tournament were the Mason County girls’ doubles team of Haley White and Mallory Conrad. They’d drop their first round match to McCracken County’s Emily Dew and Isabella McKinney, 6-2, 6-3 in a match played indoors at the Lexington Tennis Club.
“When I was there I felt like Haley was really swinging for the fences and going for her shots. The nerves may have got to Mallory a little bit, but the second set from what I heard, went to duece nearly every game. A couple points here or there definded the match, 6-3 could have very well been 7-5, 6-all, so you just got to win those crucial points,” Jolley said.
The two will have another year together as Conrad will be a senior and White a junior, poised to be leaders of the team with Gray’s departure.