May 18th, 2013

Valkyries reign in tennis for first time since 2008

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Conor Revell

Managing Editor

Valkyries reign in tennis for first time since 2008
Sacred Heart beat Lone Oak to earn its eighth championship trophy / photo by Conor Revell

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- A year ago, Lone Oak eliminated Sacred Heart in the semifinals of the KHSAA State Tennis Tournament.

One year later, the Valkyries and Purple Flash met again, and this time it was for the big trophy.

Sacred Heart won its eighth team state tennis championship by defeating Lone Oak 3-1 Friday at the University of Kentucky’s Boone/ Downey Tennis Complex. It was the Valkyries’ first state title since 2008.

“First of all, give a lot of credit to Lone Oak ­­-- they pushed us,” Sacred Heart co-head coach Jason McGill said. “They pushed us as far as we could’ve been pushed. I’m kind of speechless right now.”

Even though the schools are more than 200 miles apart – Lone Oak is near Paducah – you could say the teams are rivals. The Purple Flash have won 11 state crowns, three more than Sacred Heart. The rest of Kentucky has combined to win 13.

“This is the healthiest rivalry that you could ever imagine,” Lone Oak head coach Larry Heflin said. “We respect them so much and I believe that they respect us. We enjoy playing against them and the girls enjoy it. It’s about the best in sports that we can get along like this.”  

But this marks the final chapter of the rivalry as Lone Oak will become part of the consolidated McCracken County High School next season.

With the Valkyries leading 2-1, Sacred Heart’s Abbey MacMillan and Lone Oak’s McKenna Garneau went into a third and deciding set after MacMillan won the first set 6-0 and Garneau took the second 6-1.

“Coach (English) told me that I needed to start playing my game and relax,” MacMillain said. “I knew that I could do it, I just needed to believe in myself and do what I needed to do.”

MacMillan went up 3-0 in the third set before Garneau rallied to tie it. But   MacMillan never trailed again and was mobbed by her teammates after she won.

“There wasn’t a girl on our team that wanted to win state more than Abbey,” Sacred Heart co-head coach Kristen English said. “McKenna changed things up on her, but she was able to persevere and got the job done.”

Added McGill, “It’s another state title for Sacred Heart Academy. It’s an awesome feeling.”

MacMillan’s victory meant Sacred Heart’s Ashley Hammons and Lone Oak’s Madelien Kaufman didn’t have to play a third set. Hammons took the first 7-5 set, and Kaufman won the second 6-1.

“It was unbelievable to win,” MacMillan said. “We’ve been working so hard for this. It finally paid off.”

Early on it appeared that the Valkyries would breeze past Lone Oak. Katherine English and Sydney Thompson swept Courtney Dallas and Brenna Adams 6-0, 6-0 to take the first doubles match, and Mary Elaine Kuo and Erin MacMillan defeated Makensie Ellerman and Sophia Shiben 6-0, 6-3.

Lone Oak’s Michelle McKamey defeated Caroline Walter 6-2, 6-0 to make it 2-1. Then rain started to fall and officials were forced to move the MacMillan vs. Mackenna and Hammons vs. Kaufman matches indoors. But it didn’t matter as the Valkyries still celebrated a thrilling win.

“It feels so good to win,” said Katherine English, the co-coach’s daughter. “We lost to them last year and for this to happen during our senior year feels so good.”

SHA deated Manual, Elizabethtown and Corbin to get to the final.



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