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Regional Tournament Play resumes Saturday, May 16, 2009

May 15, 2009 08:08 PM

Rose Hill's David Bush returns a volley to Chase Bates, of Russell in his semifinal round match of the 16th region tennis tournament. Bush advances to finals Saturday with a 6-0, 7-6 (7-4) victory.Tennis titles up for grabs again; Ashland, Russell boys tied

By ROCKY STANLEY — The Independent

Ashland It’s become a rite of spring.

The race for the 16th Region team tennis championships is going right down to the wire — again.

The boys and girls titles both remained up for grabs after Thursday’s semifinals at the Ashland Tennis Center.

Ashland and Russell’s boys are deadlocked with 12 points apiece.

“It’s another battle,’’ said coach Eddie Sizemore of defending champion Ashland. “This makes it a lot more exciting. I’m not going to sit here and call it more fun.’’

That’s because Sizemore and Russell coach Tracy Edwards have sweated out several of these tight finishes between their teams.

“Last year it came down to the very last match,’’ Sizemore said. “Here we go again.’’

On the girls’ side, Rose Hill Christian remained two points behind Russell and those teams are matched up in both finals Saturday. Girls and boys doubles title matches are scheduled for 10 a.m., with the singles to follow at about 11:30.

“It’s exciting,’’ said Melissa Epling, now in her 20th year coaching Russell’s girls. “It seems like every year it’s close like this.’’

And stressful from a coaching standpoint?

“Of course, just a little bit,’’ Epling said. “That’s why you keep coming back.’’

The boys singles and doubles matchups Saturday are the same as a year ago. Ashland junior Stephen Metcalf will be seeking to repeat as singles champions against Rose Hill Christian seventh-grader David Bush. In doubles, Ashland’s Jeff Nelson and Greg Geremia will try to defend their title against Russell brothers Austin and Alex Christie.

Thursday’s semifinals dodged a rainy forecast, allowing the matches to be played on the outdoor courts.

Metcalf, seeded No. 1 in singles, defeated Russell freshman Taylor Nguyen 6-4, 6-1 after digging out of an early hole.

“I was down 0-3 and talking to coach Sizemore,’’ Metcalf said. “He told me not to even worry about it. I just turned it on from there.’’

Metcalf won 12 of the last 14 games to advance. Nguyen is in his first year at Russell and the two players did not meeting during the regular season.

“I know Taylor has been a great addition to Russell’s team,’’ Metcalf said. “He has solid strokes, especially for being a freshman. He definitely came to play.’’

Metcalf is doing his part as Ashland attempts to win a ninth consecutive regional team title.

“Any win is another point toward a team victory,’’ he said. “I’m glad to be able to contribute a little bit toward that today, especially since it was against Russell.’’

Bush, seeded third, earned a return trip to the finals by knocking off No. 2 Chase Bates of Russell 6-0, 7-6.

“I feel like I’m playing well,’’ Bush said. “This is my second upset in the semifinals.’’

Last year, he ousted top-seeded Spencer Johnson of East Carter in the semifinal.

Bush, who avenged an 8-6 regular-season loss to Bates, is looking forward to another meeting with Metcalf.

“I’m feeling some revenge,’’ Bush said. “I’m going to go full out in the finals.’’

Bush turns 13 today and has been busy competing in high-level junior tournaments. He went 3-3 in the Spring National Championship 12s at Del Ray Beach, Fla., in April. More recently, Bush competed in a 14-under Southern tournament.

He came out strong against Bates and closed out the match by winning the second-set tiebreaker 7-4.

“I was thinking before the match that I just needed to keep the ball in play the first game and that would get my rhythm going for the rest of the match,’’ Bush said.

Bates, down 5-3 in the second set, saved a match point and went on to take a 6-5 lead. But Bush fended off a set point and won the next game to set up the tiebreaker.

In doubles, Ashland’s Nelson and Geremia overcame an early deficit to defeat Russell’s Miles Mussetter and Paul Spradlin 6-4, 6-3. Russell’s Christie and Christie rolled past Ashland’s Patrick Duggan and Mark Patil 6-1, 6-0.

Russell’s girls hold a 13-11 edge on Rose Hill going to the final round. Both teams picked up wins in singles and doubles Thursday.

Rose Hill eighth-grader Kennedy Womack, the top seed in singles, cruised past Russell fifth-grader Kierstin Hensley

6-0, 6-0 and has yet to lose a game in the tournament.

Defending champion Claire Spradlin of Russell returned to the finals with a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Lauren Phelps of Boyd County in their first meeting of the season.

Phelps won a long opening game before Spradlin started to gain momentum.

“I think the first game went to deuce about six times,’’ Spradlin said. “I thought to myself this could be a long match. She’s a good player.’’

Spradlin’s only loss this season came against Womack and she is happy to be back in the finals.

“It’s great,’’ Spradlin said. “I’m just hoping to defend my title from last year. I’m going to play as hard as I can.’’

Rose Hill’s top-seeded doubles team of Alex Billups and Leslie Stringer got past Ashland’s Emily Krick and Emily Griffith 6-1, 0-6, 6-2, while Russell’s Kelsey Hensley and Andrea Wise beat Rowan County’s Mica Davis and Hannah Templeman 6-0, 6-1. Wise won the title last year with Tori Powell.

Claire Spradlin, of Russell returns a volley to Lauren Phelps, of Boyd County, during their semifinal round match of the 16th region tennis tournament. Spradlin advances to finals Saturday with a 6-1, 6-1 victory.

Ashland's Stephen Metcalf, in his semifinal round match of the 16th region tennis tournament against Russell's Taylor Nguyen. Metcalf advances to Saturdays final 6-4, 6-1.