Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local Sports

June 8, 2014

Area girls sweep singles at Stuart Blazer

ASHLAND — Strong tennis seasons for Lauren Fazenbaker and Bailey Thompson got even better this weekend.

Ashland’s Fazenbaker and Louisa’s Thompson won singles titles Sunday in the 38th annual Stuart Blazer Memorial State Championships. They also joined forces to take top honors in the Girls 18s doubles division on the Ashland Tennis Center outdoor courts.

Fazenbaker, 16, went unbeaten in round-robin 18s singles play at the Stuart Blazer tournament for the second consecutive year. She wrapped it up in quick fashion Sunday with a 6-0, 6-0 victory over Cailee Marcum from Pike County.

“I moved her around a lot,” Fazenbaker said. “My serves were doing well and I kind of forced her to make errors.”

Earlier this spring, the Ashland Blazer sophomore won her first high school region singles championship and advanced to the State Tournament quarterfinals. Fazenbaker also reached the quarterfinals in the Joe Creason Kentucky State Qualifier, including an early win over the No. 6 seed.

“I thought I played pretty well in the Creason,” said Fazenbaker, a left-hander who this season added more punch to her consistent game.  

Fazenbaker carried the momentum into the Stuart Blazer Championships, a Kentucky Level 3 tournament. She avenged a loss from the high school regular season by beating Russell’s Maci Ferguson 6-1, 6-0 on Saturday. Ferguson was Kentucky high school doubles champion with partner Kierstin Hensley.

“I just keep working on my game and try to get better,” Fazenbaker said. “Maci’s a good player.”

After trips to Lexington and Louisville the last few weeks, Fazenbaker welcomed the chance to play in her own backyard.

“It’s great,” she said. “You can sleep in your own bed and you don’t have to wake up as early.”

Thompson returned to the Stuart Blazer Championships after a two-year absence and took a rollercoaster ride to her 6-7, 6-4, 1-0 win over Corbin High School player Jaclyn Jewell in the Girls 16s final.

Thompson, 14, fought back from a 5-3, 30-love deficit in the first set to lead 6-5. She also overcame a 5-1 deficit in the tiebreaker to go up 6-5 before Jewell prevailed 9-7.

“I double-faulted and (Jewell) pulled ahead,” Thompson said. “My serve in the first set was off. I pulled it together the rest of the match. I started getting more balls in play in the second set. Previous to that, I has been overhitting too much.”

After the players split sets, Thompson trailed by one point on three occasions in the 10-point super tiebreaker, used in place of a third set. Thompson pulled even at 5-5 and went on to win 10-7.

“I hit a really big forehand down the line when I got up,” she said. “It was a tough match all the way. (Jewell) is a really strong player. She got to everything and definitely made me work for every point.”

Thompson will be an eighth-grader at Lawrence County. She won the 15th Region doubles title with Ali Dotson and they reached the state quarterfinals despite being unseeded. At the Creason, Thompson placed fourth in 14s singles and won the doubles title with Crestwood’s Stephanie Pitts for the second year in a row.

“The Southerns are next weekend in Macon, Ga., and I’m hoping to make it my best tournament of the season,” Thompson said. “It felt good to be back playing in this one. The ATC always has good tournaments.”

Fazenbaker and Thompson led a sweep of Stuart Blazer girls singles championships by area players.

Wurtland’s Madison Hill, top-seeded in the 14s, downed No. 2 Kiley Mair 6-1, 6-1 in the final. Hill dropped only five games in winning three matches against Lexington and Louisville players.

In the Girls 12s, Ashland’s Sarah Powell defeated Catlettsburg’s Emma Hill 7-6, 6-1 in the decisive match of a round-robin format.

Abigail Meeks of Ashland won the Girls 10s division on Saturday with a 4-0, 4-1 victory over Emma Harris of Forest Hills. Meeks, the No. 1 seed, lost only one game in her three matches.

Boys singles champs included Matthew Graft (Louisville, 18s), Tommy McConville (Louisville, 16s), Charlie Boone (Lexington, 14s), Palmer Collett (Frankfort, 12s) and Isaiah Smith (Georgetown, 10s).

Graft, part of St. Xavier’s state champion doubles team with Nick Waldeck, had three tight matches over the weekend including two against Knoxville, Tenn., players.  

 “A couple of the guys I played were good, hard grinders,” Graft said. “I knew it would be tough.”

It marked the first trip to Ashland for Graft, who heard about the tennis facility from Waldeck’s parents.

“This was a really fun tournament,” the 15-year-old said. “It’s very well-run.”

McConville, seeded No. 1 in the 16s, turned away Russell’s Matthew Eastham 6-2, 6-4 in the title match.

“(McConville) has a strong forehand, strong backhand, goes to the net and doesn’t miss a lot,” Eastham said of the Trinity High School player. “I kind of had to earn every point.”

Eastham knew the challenge awaiting him. They met recently in the Creason backdraw, with McConville winning that one 6-4, 7-6.

“Personally, I think I played a little better in the Creason match,” Eastham said. “I was missing too many shots today because I felt I had to go for winners.”

Eastham, who won three matches to get to the final, was coming off a 2-6, 6-2, 1-0 semifinal squeaker over Ashland’s Robby Krick.

“It was quite the nail-biter, I guess,” Eastham said with a smile. “Robby came out playing really well. The second set basically was me trying to step up my game a bit. His forehand is good.”

Krick won the third-place match.

Eastham and Lexington’s Noah Tapp combined to win their second doubles title in three years at the tournament.

ROCKY STANLEY can be reached at rstanley@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2671.

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