The perfect Mother’s Day gift?
If you’re Rose Hill Christian tennis coach Kimberly Bush, it’s a Section 4 championship courtesy of impressive-playing son David and his clutch supporting cast.
Rose Hill’s boys won their first section title Sunday by defeating Corbin and Lawrence County outdoors at the Ashland Tennis Center.
“Awesome, amazing,” Kimberly Bush said after Rose Hill secured a spot in the state team tennis Final Four this week at the University of Kentucky. Earlier Sunday, Corbin’s girls from the 13th Region became a first-time section champ.
David Bush, a junior and member of the 2012 All-State team, controlled both of his matches at No. 1 singles in chilly and windy conditions to remain unbeaten this season. Three days earlier, Bush won the 16th Region singles crown for the fourth consecutive year.
“It’s very cool,” David said of Rose Hill’s big victory taking place on Mother’s Day. The tournament was pushed back one day because of showers in Saturday’s forecast.
Kimberly Bush has coached David and his sister, Rachael, at RHCS since their elementary school days.
“I appreciate her a lot,” David said. “I’m kind of getting near the end of the road for high school tennis, and she’s been here through it all. This is well-deserved for her, in my opinion.”
Mother and son remember well the days when the small school struggled to come up with enough players to complete a tennis lineup.
“I tried to grab a baseball player and maybe a guy from track and say, ‘Let’s to the tennis court,’ “ Kimberly recalled. “They would tell me, ‘I don’t know how to play tennis.’ I said, “I’ll teach you.’ We played with a partial team for several years.“
She gradually built up the boys and girls programs. Rose Hill’s boys won their first region title this season after back-to-back second places, while the girls team has finished first or second for five consecutive years. They won the section last season, and Sunday the boys followed suit.
David Bush defeated Lawrence County’s tough Cole McCreary 6-1, 6-1 in the section finals. Rose Hill managed to get past Lawrence County in an extremely tight 3-1 match.
“I just come out and play,” Bush said. “I knew the rest of the team was capable. I’ve been playing with a couple of the guys (seniors Mitch Reynolds and Zach Jones) for a long time. I knew we were capable of winning regionals and sectionals.”
Rose Hill loaded up in singles Sunday. Leading 2-1, the Royals received a huge lift when their newly formed doubles team of sophomore Nathan Reynolds and junior Elijah Daniels squeaked by Jacob West and Matt Hammond 6-4, 1-6, 1-0 (10-6) for the deciding point. That matchup was pivotal because Lawrence County held a big lead in the other doubles contest.
“It was so close and exciting,” Rose Hill’s coach said. “No. 1 doubles came through. This week was Elijah’s first time in regionals, and today he put the ball away at the net for the last point.”
Daniels moved into the lineup after David Stringer fractured his wrist in practice two days before the region tournament.
Mitch Reynolds picked up the other point for Rose Hill with a 6-0, 6-0 victory over Lawrence County seventh-grader Daniel Cantrell.
“I just tried to get it done as quick as I could, and cheer on the other guys,” Reynolds said. “I got over there (decisive doubles match) as soon as I saw how close the team score was. I had talked to them before the match about needing a doubles win. They got it done for us.”
Bush did his part by putting his serve-and-volley skills on display against McCreary, the 15th Region singles winner last year who switched to doubles this season to help the Bulldogs repeat as team champs.
“Cole’s a strong player,” Bush said. “When he left some returns short, I tried to be aggressive and take the ball the other way. I served fairly well.”
Bush beat McCreary 8-1 during the regular season.
“He’s just so consistent,” McCreary said. “He places the ball where he wants to every single time, and has a really tough serve.”
Rose Hill also had a close match in the semifinals, edging Corbin 3-2 as Jones turned back sophomore William Reedy 7-5, 6-4 for the last point.
Lawrence County began with a 3-1 victory over Oneida Baptist from the 14th Region. McCreary, senior Jake Estep and sophomore Jacob West combined for a singles sweep in straight sets.
Estep, the 15th Region singles champ, later beat Rose Hill’s Jones 6-2, 6-3.
“Jake probably has a 20-plus winning streak,” Lawrence County coach Chad Williams said. “He’s been a part of five region championship teams in a row. He has such a great attitude and gives us flexibility to play him in singles or doubles.”
Overall, the Bulldogs began the season with a goal of adding another region championship and winning their first match at sectionals.
“We wanted to make it to the final eight and accomplished that,” Williams said. “I’m so proud of our team.”
Meanwhile, Corbin’s girls cleared a big hurdle in the semifinals by stopping Russell 3-2 before blanking Lawrence County 3-0 for the title. The two previous years, Corbin came up short in the section finals against Russell and Rose Hill.
“It’s big for us to get by the 16th Region,” said Corbin coach Donnie Head, who couldn’t make the trip but stayed in touch with the team by phone. “We’ve had a really good year (18-2). The losses to Lexington Christian and Henry Clay were both 3-2.”
Corbin was determined to advance out of the section this time.
“We’ve put in all kinds of hard work as a team after losing last year,” junior Sydney Ledington said. “Getting to go to state, it feels really good.”
Ledington and doubles partner Jaclyn Jewell are unbeaten this season, but they played singles Sunday.
Jewell, a freshman, outlasted Russell’s Hunter Nguyen 7-5, 6-4. Corbin’s other two points came in doubles — Julie Crawford and Emma Kate Carloftis defeated Claudia Kendrick and Laura McKenzie 6-3, 6-4, while MaKayla Beecham and Ellie Jane Carloftis beat sixth-grader Ashley Nguyen and fourth-grader Mia Ferguson 6-0, 6-0.
On the other two courts, Russell’s Kierstin Hensley and Maci Ferguson had one-set leads in their singles matches. Two years ago, those two players were in the seventh and fifth grades when they posted singles wins against Corbin to lift Russell to the section title.
“Today, the depth of Corbin really gave them the edge,” Russell coach Larra Ferguson said. “We’ve had a good season. It’s a young team, we don’t lose anybody. Both doubles teams are going to state, so we are not finished.”
Lawrence County, another young team, received a default in the semifinals from Knott County Central, a team the Lady Bulldogs beat a couple of weeks ago. Lawrence County juggled its lineup against Corbin in an attempt to pick up points in doubles, but Ledington, Catherine Crawford and Jewell cruised through their singles matches to end it.
“This is a really nice facility, even though it was kind of far away,” Ledington said. “The people who run it are very nice, too.”
Lawrence County overcame several obstacles this season to edge Johnson Central by one point for the 15th Region crown.
Although Lawrence County was missing four players from last year, lone upperclassmen Ali Dotson stepped up in a big way. First, the junior talked soccer standout Shelby Hay and Chelsea Shepherd into playing tennis again. Dotson, the team’s top returner, also agreed to play doubles in the region and finished runner-up with Shepherd.
“We wouldn’t have been able to win the region if Ali had not played doubles,” Lady Bulldogs coach Kelli Dixon said. “She said, ‘Put me where we can win.’ Ali deserves credit for taking a leadership role in putting this team together.”
Dixon said it seemed like Lawrence County had somebody out with sickness almost every match until the end of the regular season.
“It’s a great group of kids who are well-rounded on and off the court,” Dixon said. “We’ve pulled it together, that’s for sure.”