Hopkinsville senior James Folz wasn’t planning on playing tennis in the spring.
However, when he was needed he answered the call and joined forces with Spencer Powell as his new double partner
“I wasn’t even planning on playing at all,” Folz said. “Coach (Will Myers) texted me right before the season started because Spencer needed a partner and I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll give it a shot.’ Ended up coming here and Spencer and I had a good bond. We had a good time playing with each other.”
“I hadn’t really played doubles that much before,” Powell said. “Getting a new partner — it was different. It worked out though because we ended up having good chemistry and we made a good run.”
Fast forward to the end of the tennis season and the pair saw their season come to an end in Lexington at the state tournament.
“When we came in, we didn’t expect much,” Folz said. “I had a little background, but not much in tennis. We got hot right before region. I think we won some big matches against some tough opponents. We had some confidence going in. It was nice to have some wins going into the tournament and we got there, got some wins and it just happened to work out in our favor.”
The pair got hot at the right time and their ability to win big matches and clinch a trip to the state tournament is why they are the 2021 Planter’s Bank Kentucky New Era boys’ tennis Athletes of the Year.
While it wasn’t always blue skies for the duo, that is expected when you are building chemistry and learning more about each other as teammates on and off the court.
Once they started to figure everything out, their play on the court showed their potential.
“One big thing we had to get down was our positioning,” Powell said. “Like where we need to be on the court depending on what you’re doing and what your opponents are doing so that you can return the ball into the right spot. Once we really got that down, we started to play really well — especially in region. I think that was one of the reasons we started playing well.”
The pair played their way into a regional championship and qualified for the state tennis tournament.
Despite playing against the top overall seed and eventual state champions in the very first round, both were happy just to have made it that far and get that experience.
“It was a neat experience overall,” Folz said. “We got to see some awesome facilities and the guys we played against were just unreal players. It’s a different level.”
“Going to that tennis facility for the first time was pretty cool,” Powell said. “I just enjoyed it even though we had a really tough match. Just the experience was nice.”
With the season over and Folz heading to Centre to continue his golf career, Powell will begin his next steps on the tennis court.
“I’ll probably focus mainly on singles if not 100% on singles,” Powell said. “I might play a couple of doubles matches but right now I’m focused and working on my singles game.”
Powell said playing singles will definitely be different after getting this past year in with Folz, but he is ready for the challenge ahead.
“It’s nice being the only one in control but at the same time, you don’t have anyone to say, ‘Hey, it’s fine,’ ” Powell said. “You’re just all in your own head and that makes it harder. I’ll just have to get ready.”
2021 boys’ tennis All-KNE Team
James Folz — Hopkinsville
Spencer Powell — Hopkinsville
Ethan Alexander — UHA
Andrew Haugenbury — Fort Campbell
Shayan Khan — UHA
Will Bryan — UHA
Riley Simmons — UHA
Gabe Gorsuch — Fort Campbell
Zohaib Iqbal — UHA667