By Denis House
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
When North Laurel’s Caroline Moore qualified for this week’s KHSAA state tennis tournament, she accomplished something that could very well be a first in Laurel County.
Moore’s third straight appearance in the state tennis tournament, to go along with four trips to the state golf tournament, gives the North Laurel senior seven appearances in a state tournament.
And the accomplishment wasn’t lost on her.
“I thought about it, but it wasn’t on the top of mind,” Moore said.
Five months ago, the chance of playing in another state tournament was in question.
That’s when she was diagnosed with epileptic seizures. She had probably been having them for some time before officially being diagnosed.
The cause of her seizures is a lesion in the left front temporal lobe. It has probably been there since birth. Doctors started her on medication, which has been trial and error trying to find out which medicines work for her. Every person is different and responds differently to the medications. The first one the doctors had her on caused her to have an allergic reaction. The goal doctors set are to be seizure free with medicine and with the least amount of side effects.
A trip to the hospital in March caused her to miss some early matches, including one against Corbin and a chance to face the Lady Redhounds’ No. 1 team of Sydney Ledington and Jaclyn Jewell, the team that they lost to in the finals of the region tournament.
“I had an I.V. and that got my arm stiff, so I couldn’t play against Corbin,” Moore said. “But it didn’t discourage me. I knew I would be back on the court.”
And she was, and slowly but surely, she worked the rust off of her game and got it back to where she wanted it to be.
For Moore, tennis is a part-time sport. Her main sport, and first love, is golf. She made the state tournament as an eighth-grader, then three straight years from her sophomore to senior season. Each year she made progress, which culminated with a seventh place finish in last year’s state tournament. She also won the region title, was named Region 9 Player of the Year, and a member of the Kentucky All-State golf team. Her accomplishments helped land her a scholarship to play at Lee University in Tennessee.
“She basically plays tennis three months a year,” her high school coach, Bobby Smith, said. “Golf is her main thing. To be a part-time tennis player and to be this successful makes me think what if she was a full-time tennis player? There’s no telling what she could do.”
And she has only been playing tennis for four years.
“She came home one day and said she was going to play tennis,” her father, Rick Moore said. “I said honey you’ve never played before.”
“She said Bobby (Smith) and several other Lady Jaguar tennis players kept bugging her about playing,” her mother, Karen Moore, said. “She kept telling them she had never played before, but they wouldn’t let up. Bobby and James Montgomery have really helped her and taught her the game.”
Moore is a doubles player. She prefers it that way.
“Absolutely,” she said when asked if she preferred doubles over singles. “Volleying is my favorite part of the game. I would rather be at the net than at the baseline.”
“She’s as good of a doubles player as we have had come through North Laurel,” Smith said. “She has great doubles instincts. She plays on the ad side. She’s pretty reliable when we need a big point or great return.”
Moore has played with two partners. Her first two years she played with Mikaela Prichard. Prichard was her partner on her first trip to the state tournament. She was supposed to be her partner last season, but Prichard tore her ACL and missed tennis season. Smith said he had high hopes for that duo last year, but Prichard’s unfortunate injury denied him the chance to see what they could do at the state level.
Instead, she was paired with Pooja Kanthawar, who has been her partner for the past two seasons. “We have a really good rapport,” Moore said. The duo won one match at last year’s state before being eliminated. They hope to go further this year.
Meanwhile, she’s still battling with her seizures. Ironically, the older sister of Mikaela Prichard, Makenzie, who also played tennis at North, was recently diagnosed with a similar lesion, only in a different part of her brain. She had surgery and has helped Moore deal with this.
“She and Makenzie have talked a lot about it, and Makenzie has been really supportive,” Moore’s mother said. “Surgery might be an option for Caroline down the road. We will have to wait and see.”
When the average person hears the word “epilepsy” they think about people falling on the ground and jerking around. While some do suffer that form of epilepsy, Moore doesn’t. She mostly just, for the lack of a better word, zones out for just a few seconds, and usually doesn’t have any memory of it.
“We are people of faith,” her father said. “We don’t know what God has planned but He knows what he is doing. And Caroline is a fighter. She won’t let this keep her down.”