May 16th, 2014

Valkyries reign again in team tennis

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Conor Revell

Managing Editor

Valkyries reign again in team tennis
Sacred Heart had another championship trophy after Abbey MacMillan won the last singles match for a 3-2 win over McCracken County / photo by Conor Revell

LEXINGTON, Ky. — For the second consecutive year, Abbey MacMillan saved the day for Sacred Heart at the girls’ tennis team state championship.

MacMillan’s 7-6 (7-4), 6-3 win over McCracken County’s Madelyn Kauffman at the Lexington Tennis Club gave the Valkyries a 3-2 win for their second consecutive title.

“I think she looked over at Caroline (Walter) when she was down 5-2,” Sacred Heart head coach Jacob McGill said. “It was between a point or a break in between play, and Caroline fought and fought to get a point because her team is so important to her. Abbey saw it and just turned it around.”

Last year MacMillan’s thrilling win over Lone Oak’s (now McCracken County) McKenna Garneau in the final match gave the Valkyries their first team tennis state title since 2008.

MacMillan had to fight this year. The senior trailed Kauffman 5-2 with the match tied 2-2, meaning if Kauffman won, so would McCracken County.

“I honestly looked over at my teammates and told myself that I could not give up,” an emotional MacMillan said. “I had to do it for these girls. I knew I had to do it. This was also my last match at Sacred Heart. I’m just so happy right now. It’s unbelievable that we could do it two times in a row. It’s surreal.”

Sacred Heart dominated the doubles competition but struggled in singles. The Valkyries won both of their doubles matches, but MacMillan was the only singles winner.

Mary Elaine Kuo and Ashley Hammons defeated Garneau and Mackensie Ellerman 6-0, 6-0 to put the Valkyries ahead by one.

“It’s unfortunate those two lost earlier today to the Morris twins (of Assumption),” McGill said. “They were bitterly disappointed, as we all were for them. They were willing to move on even though it didn’t work out in the doubles tourney. They knew they had a chance to redeem themselves, and they did. It just shows how strong they are.”

Kuo and Hammons lost to Assumption’s Kelly and Carolyn Morris in the doubles first round earlier in the day. Many considered it an upset, and the Sacred Heart pair was ready for redemption.

“I think coming in we were a little down from our loss earlier today,” Kuo said. “But you have to move on, and we just stayed positive and moved forward because we needed a quick win to put our team on the board. The team competition was more important than the doubles match anyway.”

Taylor Sprouse gave the Mustangs their first win with a 6-0, 6-1 triumph over Madeline Wagner to tie the match.

Ashlyn Roberts and Natalie Dahlem put the Valkyries up 2-1 with their 6-1, 6-1 victory over Mesa Trimm and Sophia Shiben.

“This was an awesome experience,” Roberts said. “I got to play with one of my best friends on and off the court. That made it even better.”

Dahlem and Roberts are sophomores and have been doubles partners since freshman year.

“We work so well together because we pump each other up,” Dahlem said. “When one of us gets down, we can bring each other back up.”

Michelle McKamey put the pressure on MacMillan and Kauffman when she defeated Walter at No. 1 singles 6-1, 6-3 to tie it again.

At that point MacMillan and Kauffman were still battling in the first set as their teammates went over to court two to watch their teammate. Had she lost, MacMillan, who has no plans to play tennis in college, would walk out of her last competitive match with a loss.

“Oh, definitely, not playing tennis again made this a lot more emotional,” MacMillan said. “This was my last shibang. It’s my last match, period. That’s why this win is so emotional for me.”

When MacMillan got her final point, her teammates swarmed her and the tears started streaming as they celebrated Sacred Heart’s ninth team tennis state title.

“These kids make my job so fun,” McGill said. “They love Sacred Heart. The community that we have formed as a tennis team has been so special. The leadership our seniors have shown this year — especially today — that’s what Sacred Heart is all about. They understand the responsibility of representing our team and our school.”


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