May 8, 2013

Neha Rao breezes into semis, two NL doubles teams qualify for state

By Denis House
Sports Editor

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — CORBIN—So far Mother Nature has not been kind to the region tennis tournament.

After getting action in Friday and Saturday, Sunday’s matches were rained out, pushing the tournament back a day.

Top seeded and two-time defending region champion Neha Rao of South Laurel received a first-round bye, then beat Harlan County’s Sarah Miles, 6-0, 6-0, to advance to the quarterfinals where she beat Bailey Hubbard of Clay County to advance to last night’s semifinals.

In other singles action, North Laurel’s Makara Prichard won her opening match, beating Jena Shaw of Williamsburg, 6-3, 6-2, before falling to No. 3 seed Catherine Crawford of Corbin, 6-0, 6-0. The other North Laurel entrant, Taylor Hubbard, fell in her opening round match to Shelby Green of Lynn Camp, 6-2, 6-4.

South Laurel’s Emily Turner beat Harlan County’s Jessyca Stamper, 6-0, 6-3, then lost to No. 5 seed Mindi Bowling of Clay County, 7-5, 6-2.

In doubles play, North Laurel’s Caroline Moore and Pooja Kanthawar, seeded No. 2, had an opening round bye, then beat Taylor and Thomas of Williamsburg, 6-2, 6-1, to advance to face the No. 5 seeded team from Middlesboro of Melanie Saylor and Baylie Brunsma. North Laurel coach Bobby Smith knew his team would have to step it up against Middlesboro, saying they were a dangerous team that could give them trouble if they didn’t play up to their capabilities.

They did step up, winning 6-2, 6-1, to advance to Tuesday night’s semifinals and qualify for the state tournament.

“Pooja and Caroline played some really great doubles in this huge match that also qualified us for state,” Smith said.  “Just as with Arjun and Spencer (the boys doubles team), we came out focused against a very dangerous team - the toughest seed that any of the top four teams had to face.  We pounced on them early and just really controlled the net against them.  Pooja had one of her best matches and returned really well, and Caroline was a beast at the net.  Just a very well-played match in the most important match of the season.”

The other North Laurel team, No. 7 seed Kendra Smallwood and Brynna Ryle, won their first two matches then fell No. 1 seed Ledington/Jewell of Corbin, 6-0, 6-0.

“Kendra and Brynna have played really well in advancing to the quarters,” Smith said. “I was happy for them in earning a seed.”

South Laurel’s Makenzie Jones and Savannah Durham lost to Ledington and Jewell, 6-0, 6-0. They won their first round match, beating Napier and Day of Harlan County, 7-5, 6-0. The other Lady Cardinal team, Hannah Amburgey and Anna McCowan, left in the first round to Harlan Independent’s Browning/Phan, 6-4, 6-2.

In boys’ singles, South Laurel’s Austin Phelps lost to Darek Skidmore of Harlan County, 6-0, 6-0 (default), while Ben Tonkel won his first match against Michael Simpson of Harlan Independent, 6-4, 6-1, before falling to No. 2 seeded Connor Maguet of Corbin, 6-1, 6-0.

North Laurel’s Dakota Boggs beat Matthew Simpson of Harlan Independent, 6-3, 6-3, and Mark Calloway of Bell County, 6-0, 6-2. Hasam Salim of North beat Mikey Lane of Lynn Camp, 6-0, 6-0, before losing to No. 5 seeded Pete Camparoni of Whitley County, 7-6 (1), 6-0.

“Dakota got a good draw in not having to face a seed until the quarters,” Smith said “I was happy for him to get us a couple of wins. I was really proud of Hasan’s effort today. Just last week, Pete beat up on him pretty good, but he came back and really gave him a scare. To Pete’s credit he served a big game at 5-6 in the first set when the pressure was on him. Hasan gave us a great showing and he’s one of several middle schoolers that will help us in the future.”

Boggs faced No. 1 seed Danny Butcher of Whitley County, falling 6-0, 6-0.

“Dakota ran into a buzzsaw against Butcher and Kendra and Brynna did as well against Ledington and Jewell,” Smith said. “They are the No. 1 seeds for a reason, and we were just overmatched.  I was happy for Kendra and Brynna in earning a seed, and they played to their seed in advancing to the quarters.  They had a fine year for us.”

In doubles, North Laurel’s Arjun Kanthawar/Spencer Bolton, the No. 4 seed, had a first round bye, then beat Bailey/Eldridge of Harlan County, 6-2, 6-2. Then in the quarterfinals they downed Clay County, 6-1, 6-4. This win also qualified them for state.

“Arjun and Spencer had a tough matchup with Clay.” Smith said.  “Part of what helped us, I believe, is that we had a healthy respect for them.  They had taken a set off the No. 3 seed as well as the No. 5 seed during the season, so we knew they were a dangerous opponent.  We came out and played a great first set with Arjun returning well and Spencer finishing off volleys.  The second set got a little tight, but we were able to close the match well after it got to 4-4.  This now qualifies us for state, and I’m really happy for the guys.”

The other North team, Sammy and Justin Maggard, fell to No. 1 seed Josh Jewell and Seth Heinss of Corbin, 6-0, 6-2.

“I was really proud of Sammy’s and Justin’s performance,” Smith said. “We were a coin flip from being the No. 5 seed in the tournament. Instead we’re unseeded and the luck of the draw put us up against the No. 1 seed in our very first match. We played fairly well, and we took the fight to them. Corbin’s coach even mentioned that it should have been a semifinal match, so we showed that we belonged.”

South Laurel’s Plinio Tuta and Tyler Rush lost to Allison and Farly of Harlan Independent, 6-0, 6-0, while Ben McDonald and Ethan Carnahan lost to Grigsby and Robinson of Clay County, 6-1, 6-1.