Five Hopkinsville and a pair of University Heights Academy tennis players will begin play in the KHSAA State Tennis Tournament today.
For Hopkinsville head coach Will Myers and his five players -- Riley Fort, Sophie Maddux, Skylar Ray, Allie Fort and Ella Lester -- they are hoping there isn't a layoff in their play having not competed in an official match since the Second Region Tournament.
"A lot of pressure has been lifted off the players because they don't have deal with the end of the year exams and they can just solely focus on tennis," Myers said. "They haven't played a match in two weeks, so that first set (today) could be really important to regain that match focus again."
Riley is the lone singles competitor going to the tournament for Hopkinsville, as the other four are competing in doubles. She is already in the second round of the tournament because her first round opponent, Emily Kinsey from Murray High School, withdrew from the tournament.
Myers said he wants her to stay sharp as she will be facing someone who has already competed in a match that day.
"This will be her fourth match in the state tournament," Myers said. "She has the experience ... We want her to stay locked in, because she isn't going to have that previous match. She is going to step in and face better competition in her first match of the day. We tell her to take as long as she can to warm up."
It is a big moment for both Allie and Lester, as they will compete in the state tournament as eighth graders.
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The girls' doubles regional runner up are doing something that most eighth graders don't get to do and Myers wants to make sure the pair don't let the moment get the best of them.
"We try to tell them that this is just another match -- a highly competitive match," Myers said. "They've had a great record all year. They've only lost four or five times. They've accomplished their goal of getting to the state tournament, so let's go beyond that and see what we can do."
The two will begin play against Taylor Carter and Abby Stamps from Allen County-Scottsville this afternoon.
Ray and Maddux will face off against Emma Johnson and Abby Meed from Ashland Blazer.
The Lady Tigers have taken advantage of having no school while preparing for today's matches.
"They've been practicing every day," he said. "They've been focusing mainly on fundamentals. We're going to be playing a different caliber of competitor up here at the state tournament so you're going to have to make a lot of in-match adjustments. We're focusing on recognizing the weaknesses of the opponent and adjusting to that during a match. Also, we've got to capitalize on our strengths."
On the Blazers' side of things, it's the duo of Brady Bilyeu and Dylan Edmonson.
The two return to the state tournament after falling in the first round at state last year, and the Second Region champions are taking the same approach as they did in the regional, according to head coach Brian Bilyeu.
"They've got the same attitude with state as they did with region," Bilyeu said. "We came up just a little short in region last year and they came through this year. We lost in the first round (of the state tournament) last year. We're trying to win one this year and maybe two -- just see how much improvement we can make after our showing last year."
Playing in a double match brings a different element into a tennis match. While having a second person on your side of the court with you -- you are also tasked with making sure you and your partner are working together as a cohesive unit. Brian said the communication aspect is bigger than most believe.
"If you can find a good doubles pair that communicate well, it's a constant things between those two," Bilyeu said. "As soon as they walk on the court together, they need to communicate with each other and even with the smallest things. If they see a correction that needs to be made on the other's swing, they need to let the other one know. It just comes down to the basic communication and later on when they've been playing together, it becomes more of a detail thing."
Brady and Edmonson will face off against Ronit Patel and Tate Sine from Bowling Green this morning, and Brian thinks regardless of the result today, the two made an improvement from last year.
"I think any improvement they make from last year will improve their confidence," he said. "Even if they lose in the first round, I think making it to state after winning the region, I think they're really making the strides to be better and better."