LEXINGTON, Ky. – The shouts of “Let’s go!” permeate the state tennis tournament, but Christian Academy senior Grace Jennings admits she can be louder than most.
And if that turns opponents against her, so be it.
“I think other teams don’t realize that when other teams cheer against me, it just sets a fire under me,” Jennings said. “I just laugh and I’m like, ‘OK, now it’s on.’”
Jennings was at her loud and powerful best Saturday, beating McCracken County junior Michelle McKamey 7-6 (8-6), 6-4 to win her second straight title in the Republic Bank/KHSAA State Tennis Championships at the University of Kentucky’s Boone/Downing Tennis Center.
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Jennings became the first repeat winner since Lexington Catholic’s Samantha Maddox in 2010-11. She said she was motivated by receiving the No. 2 seed in the tournament, with McKamey being the No. 1. McKamey was the state champion as a freshman in 2014.
“I actually liked it better not begin the No. 1 seed,” said Jennings, a Samford University signee. “No one looked at me like, ‘Oh, I have to win it.’ I was the underdog, and that’s how I like to be. But there was definitely pressure to repeat. … Going back-to-back was huge. This one means more to me.”
Russell senior Kierstin Hensley and sophomore Maci Ferguson won their second doubles title in three years, defeating senior Madelyn Kauffman and eighth-grader Sophia Shiben of McCracken County 6-0, 6-1.
Jennings reached the final after a tough Saturday morning semifinal in which she defeated St. Francis sophomore Eva Borders 6-7, 6-4, 10-7.
In the final, Jennings led 4-1 in the first set before McKamey rallied to force a tiebreaker. McKamey led 6-4 and had two set points before Jennings scored the final four points to take the set.
Jennings said losing the first-set tiebreaker to Borders in the semifinal helped her in the final.
“I was just really focused on getting it and just kind of tore through it,” she said.
McKamey led 4-3 in the second set before Jennings won the final three games to capture the championship.
CAL coach Jeff Mallory said strength and power were the keys for the 5-foot-10 Jennings.
“She’s certainly the most powerful we’ve had in terms of the heaviness of her ball and the big serve,” Mallory said. “And you have a senior who has a lot of experience, and she’s a fighter.”
The laid-back Mallory admitted he sometimes has to reign in the emotional Jennings. But Jennings wouldn’t have it any other way.
“My coach is so mad at me,” she said with a smile. “He’s like, ‘Too much emotion. Too much emotion.’ That’s just who I am. Sometimes it backfires, but today it didn’t. I like the crowd’s energy.”
McKamey reached the final by defeating Collegiate’s Caroline Cox 6-4, 6-4 in the semifinals.
Ferguson and Hensley cruised through their two matches Saturday to capture the doubles title, losing just four games. They defeated North Oldham seventh-grade twins Emma and Katie Beavin 6-3, 6-0 in the semifinals.
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and email@example.com.
REPUBLIC BANK/KHSAA STATE TENNIS SINGLES AND DOUBLES CHAMPIONSHIPS
Saturday’s results at University of Kentucky’s Boone/Downing Tennis Center
Michelle McKamey (McCracken County) def. Caroline Cox (Collegiate), 6-4, 6-4
Grace Jennings (Christian Academy) def. Eva Borders (St. Francis), 6-7, 6-4, 10-7
Jennings def. McKamey, 7-6 (8-6), 6-4
Maci Ferguson/Kierstin Hensley (Russell) def. Emma Beavin/Katie Beavin (North Oldham), 6-3, 6-0
Madelyn Kauffman/Sophia Shiben (McCracken County) def. Francie Case/Kylie Moellering (Notre Dame), 6-1, 6-1
Ferguson/Hensley def. Kauffman/Shiben, 6-0, 6-1
Michelle McKamey (McCracken County), Allison Quammen (Lexington Catholic), Caroline Cox (Collegiate), Lauren Fazenbaker (Ashland Blazer), Eva Borders (St. Francis), Taylor Sprouse (McCracken County), Aspen Jarrett (Oldham County), Grace Jennings (Christian Academy), Maci Ferguson (Russell), Kierstin Hensley (Russell), Emma Beavin (North Oldham), Katie Beavin (North Oldham), Francie Case (Notre Dame), Kyle Moellering (Notre Dame), Madelyn Kauffman (McCracken County), Sophia Shiben (McCracken County), Jaclyn Jewell (Corbin), Lexi Herman (Highlands), Caroline Hayden (Owensboro Catholic), Zena Maddux (Hopkinsville), Emily West (Paducah Tilghman), Toni Pfeiifer (Elizabethtown).