Seniors Robby Krick of Ashland and Maci Ferguson of Russell had the state’s full attention on the final day of the high school tennis season.
Krick, winner of three 16th Region singles championships, hammered his way to the state final by knocking off the No. 1 seed at the University of Kentucky. He was a driving force as the Tomcats achieved their second consecutive third-place finish in the team standings.
Ferguson, a five-time All-State player, was presented the Midway University/KHSAA Female Student Athlete of the Year for tennis to applause inside Hilary J. Boone Tennis Center. The award recognizes excellence in athletics, academics, leadership and community service.
The two standouts are repeat winners as All-Area Players of the Year — selected by The Daily Independent.
Krick signed with College of Charleston in South Carolina, while Ferguson will remain in state to continue her career at Georgetown College.
During a four-year span, Ferguson and former doubles partner Kierstin Hensley won two state championships and reached the semifinals two other times. Along with her high-level consistency on the court, Ferguson has received several sportsmanship honors throughout her career.
“Ten years of high school tennis,” said Ferguson, who won 27 state tournament matches along the way. “I’ve made lots of friends and had so much fun. There are a lot of great memories.”
Krick has plenty of his own, especially his emotional semifinal victory over Notre Dame commit Matt Halpin of Paul Laurence Dunbar in a thirdset tiebreaker after Halpin won the second set.
Krick’s blazing serve and strong overall performance enabled him to join Kyle Virgin as the school’s only boys to make it to the championship match. A drained Krick came up short in the final to Louisville signee Alex Wesbrooks 6-3, 6-2, but not without a battle.
Wesbrooks called Krick’s serve “probably one of the hardest I’ve seen. He cranks that thing.”
Ashland’s third-seeded doubles team of junior Parker Clarke and senior Layne Meek advanced to the semifinals — despite Meek’s sprained ankle — helping Ashland score a program-best 10 points in the state tournament. They joined Krick on the All-State team.
“Parker has come a long way,” Tomcats coach Eddie Sizemore said after the semifinal match. “I’ve never been prouder of a player in my 18 years.”
Clarke made a sacrifice to switch from singles to doubles, allowing Ashland to produce high seeds in both draws at state.
“We set out at the end of last year to try to get back here and compete with St. X and Trinity,” Sizemore said of the Louisville tennis giants. “I don’t know if we thought we could repeat Top 3 after losing half of our lineup.”
The Tomcats’ No. 2 doubles team of Justin Lucas and Mac Meek won a third-set tiebreaker in the opening round in Lexington.
In all, Ashland has six All-Area boys selections for the second year in a row.
Blaine Collins, a first-year player known for his skills in soccer and kicking a football, earned the No. 5 seed in singles for the 16th Region Tournament. He made it to the quarterfinals.
Russell eighth-grader Michael Eastham picked up where his brother Matthew left off by rolling to a region runner-up finish in singles. The No. 2 seed dropped only two games in the bracket before meeting Krick.
Morgan County sophomore Ashton Whitt enjoyed a big season. He won the 15th Region singles title, secured a 9-16 seed at state and advanced to the second round.
Schools with three players on the All-Area boys team include East Carter (Mason Tomaselli, Noah Sammons and Shawn Greenhill), Rowan County (Jacob Barber, Luke Burrows and Jordan Justice) and Lawrence County (Noah Fairchild, Brock Kessinger and S.J. Lycans).
East Carter and Rowan County tied for second place in the 16th Region Tournament team standings, with the tiebreaker going to the Vikings.
Barber advanced to the region semifinals in singles as the No. 3 seed and won his first-round match at state. Third-seeded doubles partners Burrows and Justice also reached the region semis.
Tomaselli paced East Carter’s boys with 17 singles wins this season and was a region semifinalist. Sammons and Greenhill also made it to the semifinal round as No. 4 seed in doubles.
Other boys on the All-Area squad include Brandon Cochran of Raceland, Timmy McCoy and Blade Fannin of West Carter, and Bryson Hackney of Johnson Central.
Russell leads the girls squad with four selections.
Ferguson’s outstanding high school career ended in the state doubles quarterfinals with freshman sister Mia. They posted several big wins on the road during the spring to earn the No. 2 seed in Lexington after a dominant run through the region. Mia won that title for the second year in a row.
Junior Ashley Nguyen and eighth-grader Kendall Jackson also played a key role in the Lady Devils’ drive to a sixth consecutive region team title. Nguyen and Jackson reached the doubles semifinals in the opposite bracket. They went on to win a round at State.
Greenup County junior Madison Hill and Ashland sophomore Emma Hill finished one-two in 16th Region singles. Both carried 9-16 seeds into the state tournament and made it to the Round of 16. Beginning as an eighth grader, Madison Hill has played in four straight region singles finals going 2-2.
Morgan County senior Ashton Jones won the 15th Region crown this season over Johnson Central’s Allie Wells. Ashland — the 16th Region Tournament runner-up — East Carter and Lawrence County each placed three girls on the All-Area team.
Ashland doubles partners Emma Johnson and seventh grader Abby Meek advanced to the region semifinals.
East Carter tennis enjoyed a banner year overall, with sisters Makenzie and Maria Hayes leading the girls team to a program-best 14 victories. Makenzie, a senior, finished with 103 career doubles wins while eighth grader Maria set a school season mark by winning 27 matches. Together, they finished runner-up to the Fergusons in the region final.
Another Lady Raiders senior, Kennedy Mullins, also received All-Area honors. Boyd County’s Jessica Burton, a Transylvania University signee, and Rose Hill Christian’s Delaynee Sparks advanced to the 16th Region semifinals in singles.
Lawrence County is represented by the trio of Katelyn Pauley, Eden Webb and Maci Pollack.
Kimmie Hedge of West Carter was also chosen.
2018 ALL-AREA TENNIS
Jessica Burton (Boyd Co.)
Maci Ferguson (Russell)
Mia Ferguson (Russell)
Makenzie Hayes (E. Carter)
Maria Hayes (E. Carter)
Kimmie Hedge (W. Carter)
Emma Hill (Ashland)
Madison Hill (Greenup Co.)
Kendall Jackson (Russell)
Baesha Johnson (Lewis Co.)
Emma Johnson (Ashland)
Ashton Jones (Morgan Co.)
Abby Meek (Ashland)
Kennedy Mullins (E. Carter)
Ashley Nguyen (Russell)
Katelyn Pauley (Lawrence Co.)
Maci Pollack (Lawrence Co.)
Delaynee Sparks (Rose Hill)
Eden Webb (Lawrence Co.)
Allie Wells (J. Central)
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Maci Ferguson (Russell)
Jacob Barber (Rowan Co.)
Luke Burrows (Rowan Co.)
Parker Clarke (Ashland)
Brandon Cochran (Raceland)
Blaine Collins (Ashland)
Michael Eastham (Russell)
Noah Fairchild (Lawrence Co.)
Blade Fannin (W. Carter)
Shawn Greenhill (E. Carter)
Bryson Hackney (J. Central)
Jordan Justice (Rowan Co.)
Brock Kessinger (Lawrence Co.)
Robby Krick (Ashland)
Justin Lucas (Ashland)
S.J. Lycans (Lawrence Co.)
Timmy McCoy (W. Carter)
Layne Meek (Ashland)
Mac Meek (Ashland)
Noah Sammons (E. Carter)
Mason Tomaselli (E. Carter)
Ashton Whitt (Morgan Co.)
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Robby Krick (Ashland)