Youth shines for HHS girls at state tennis

Tyler Dixon | Kentucky New Era

Hopkinsville's Ella Lester (left) and Allie Fort talk to their second-round opponents from Ryle after the Lady Tiger duo fell in the KHSAA State Tennis Championship Thursday at Top Seed in Lexington.

LEXINGTON -- After a loss against Ryle in the doubles portion of the Kentucky High School Athletic Association State Tennis Tournament, Hopkinsville High School Coach Will Myers brought his young doubles team to the net and had them pick the brains of the overall No. 2 seed from Ryle.

For Myers, it was something he thought needed to be done as Ella Lester and Allie Fort still have a long way to go in their tennis careers since they're just wrapping up their eighth-grade year.

"What I did at the end of the match, this is a friendly game. I wanted to pull all the girls together and talk to them as mentors," he said. "Those girls were very impressed that they were only in eighth grade. I just said 'hey, what were you all doing in eighth grade to get better?' "

Lester and Fort won their first match of the day over Allen County-Scottsville's Taylor Carter and Abby Stamps as the duo cruised 6-1, 6-4, but Myers said he noticed they may be laid off a little during the end of the second set.

"We had a tough task ahead of us here in the second round because we were playing the No. 2 seed," he said. "For them to put forth the effort and compete, I couldn't be more pleased, especially as eighth graders."

Despite falling in the match, both Lady Tigers players said they got a lot from the opportunity, especially during their conversation at the end of the match.

Ryle's Elizabeth Hamilton and Hallemae Laurino were shocked to learn they were playing junior high students.

"It's awesome to hear that coming from other people, not just our coaches," Fort said. "Just to know we have the potential to be very good."

Lester said when they realize they're doing something wrong,

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youth with pic

they quickly learn they've got four more years to fix it.

"We'll get down on ourselves ... but people will be like 'you're in eighth grade,' " Lester said.

As eighth graders, it's easy to come into the state tournament with wide eyes, but after focusing in their first match, the Hoptown duo realized their potential.

"I thought we had a chance but we never played them before," Fort said. "I thought if we just played well we might win. Might not, but I'm just happy we pulled through, (that) we won."

Lester echoed her teammate's sentiment.

"We were confident in our own skills, but we didn't know how they played until we came here today," he said.

While Allie Fort is just beginning her Lady Tiger career, Riley Fort wrapped up hers Thursday after falling in the second round.

Riley said it hasn't hit her yet that it's all over.

"I actually haven't gotten emotional about it yet," she said. "It's sad, but I feel like I've been able to watch Allie and Ella and kind of living through them and really excited for them before I get sad about it."

At the end of last season, she said a highlight was getting to play with her sister and that hasn't changed during her final year as a Tiger.

"It's been amazing," she said. "She's grown tremendously not only as a player but as a person this year so we've really grown closer, and I think tennis has helped that a lot because I've been able to help her. But more importantly just with her being a lefty, she's actually helped my game too. It's been really amazing"

Hoptown's other doubles team of Skylar Ray and Sophie Maddux fell in the first round 6-0, 6-1 to Ashland Blazer's Emma Johnson and Abby Meek.

University Heights Academy's boys' doubles team of Brady Bilyeu and Dylan Edmonson fell to Bowling Green's Ronit Patel and Tate Sine 6-3, 6-2, in their second-straight state appearance.

Girls singles

Riley Fort (HHS)

Round 1: Defeated Murray's Emily Kinsey by forfeit (withdraw)

Round 2: Lost to Oldham County's Haley Klein 6-1, 6-1

Girls doubles

Ella Lester/Allie Fort (HHS)

Round 1: Defeated Allen County-Scottsville's Taylor Carter/Abby Stamps 6-1, 6-4

Round 2: Lost to Ryle's Elizabeth Hamilton/Hallemae Laurino 6-0, 6-0

Boys singles

Brady Bilyeu/Dylan Edmonson (UHA)

Round 1: Lost to Bowling Green's Ronit Patel/Tate Sine 6-3, 6-2

Sophie Maddux/Skylar Ray (HHS)

Round 1: Lost to Ashland Blazer's Emma Johnson/Abby Meek 6-0, 6-1.

Reach Tyler Dixon at (270) -- 887-3260 or tdixon@kentuckynewera.com.

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