For The Independent
LEXINGTON — Fairview senior Kennedy Womack wasn’t her consistent self in Saturday morning’s state tennis semifinals at the University of Kentucky’s Hilary Boone Tennis Complex.
As a result, the top seed fell to Lexington Sayre sophomore Madeline Rolph 6-1, 6-0.
Womack was obviously disappointed with her finish, especially after losing in last year’s state finals, but she was happy for her good friend Rolph.
That took away some of the sting.
“It's probably easier because at least you're happy for her at the same time,” Womack said. “... It's hard to lose because it's my last state tournament and I'm a senior, but if I had to lose to anyone, I want it to be Madeline, so I'm really happy for her.”
Womack's main first-set problem was her serve – she double-faulted four times. She said the other reason was Rolph, the No. 3 seed, playing smarter tennis.
“I think her strengths are her ball placement, her movement, her ability to set up points really well and finish them off,” Womack said. “... I think she kept me behind the baseline. I like to move in and kind of control the baseline and control the points, and she did a better job of that.”
Womack heads to Morehead State University, where she'll play for head coach Kevin Fulton. The Eagles struggled to a 3-17 team record, and Womack wants to improve two things about her game.
“I want to work on my serve, the power of my serve,” Womack said, “and I want to work on utilizing the net more because I traditionally stay back. I would like to become more of a volleyer.”
Because Rolph knew Womack liked to stay at the baseline, her strategy was simple.
“My strategy was just to move her around, and if I would win my service games … I knew if I played consistent, I'd be OK,” Rolph said.
Womack’s consistency, normally a strength, was missing on the overcast morning. Rolph took a 2-0 lead in the first set with an ace followed by Womack’s unforced netted shot. After Womack held her serve to close to 2-1, Rolph took the next four games a variety of ways to win the first set easily 6-1.
Womack was upset with herself because of the inconsistent play.
“I just told her it was a new game and be aggressive,” Fairview coach Stacey Clayton said about the between-set conversation.
Womack's woes continued – she won just three points over the second set’s first three games. In the fourth, she led, 40-15, but Rolph rallied and her service winner made it 5-0.
A few minutes after the match, Womack handed her bronze medal to Fairview principal Garry McPeek as a show of appreciation for all he did for her. McPeek took her into the Eagle family with open arms last fall.
Womack enjoyed her senior year at Fairview more than words could express so she gave the medal to McPeek to display proudly at the school.
“I would want no one else to have it,” she said.
Russell freshman Maci Ferguson and seventh-grader Kierstin Hensley and Rose Hill seniors Alex Billups and Leslie Stringer, also fell in the semifinals.
Louisville Sacred Heart's Katherine English and Sydney Thompson eliminated Ferguson and Hensley, 6-3, 6-2, and Notre Dame's Laura Irons and Catriona Shaughnessy took care of Billups and Stringer, 6-2, 6-0.
Hensley and Ferguson won the regional title last week. Yesterday, they fell behind, 0-3, in both sets.
“We were nervous,” Ferguson said. “We've never made it this far, and all the people were loud.”
With their high school careers complete, Billups and Stringer talked about college plans. Billups plans to study International Relations at Loyola University in Baltimore, and Stringer is headed for Liberty University in Virginia, where she wants to become a physical therapist.
“After all we've been in, academically and athletically, to get this far with my best friend, that's pretty awesome,” Billups said. “And, I'll remember the pain, sweat and tears.”