Powering through

Franklin County’s Amato-Williams, Barker advance to semis

By Nate Parsons Published:

Before the season even began, Franklin County coach Melinda Lewis had a sense that her team would be represented at the state tournament.

She was right.

After winning their quarterfinal matches in the Region 8 tournament Tuesday night at Western Hills High School, the top-seeded doubles team of Lili Williams and Mary Grace Amato and No. 2-seeded Kelley Barker automatically qualified for next week’s KHSAA State Tennis Championships in Lexington.

“I expected both of them to go to state or have a real fighting chance,” said a very emotional Lewis, who is done after the season because of health reasons.

“I’ve never had two teams go to state. ... I just can’t tell you how happy I am right now.”

Lewis was especially emotional after the duo of Williams and Amato rallied for a super-tiebreaker win, beating North Oldham’s sixth-seeded duo of Liz Whitman and Erin Diddle 6-7 (2-7), 6-3, 1-0 (13-11).

“I’ve coached Lili and Mary Grace for five years and they’ve worked so hard together as a team,” Lewis said of the seniors, who will play for Transylvania next year.

“All they’ve ever wanted to do was go to state ... and they did it.”

Williams and Amato faced elimination multiple times in the super-tiebreaker before finally keeping their perfect region-match record intact and advancing to play the No. 3-seeded duo of Josie Olliges and Allison Reed (South Oldham) in the semifinals tonight at Franklin County High School.

“I feel like we played well and consistently and it was really stressful, probably the most stressful match I’ve ever played,” Williams said.

Said Amato: “I was nervous. I had to serve on losing match point. ... I’m really excited because it’s my senior year and I don’t have another chance to get to state.”

While Williams and Amato’s match came down to the wire, Barker’s was just the opposite.

She cruised for the third straight match, beating North Oldman’s fifth-seeded Emma Beavin 6-1, 6-0.

“I played really consistent and smart,” said Barker, who lost a game for the first time in the tournament. “At times I took my chances, but other times I should’ve taken more advantage of it. But overall, it was the best that I could’ve done right now.”

Barker, a sophomore who is ranked nationally in the top 100 players to watch, will play No. 4-seeded Natalie Dearen (South Oldham) in the semifinals.

“When Kelley sets her mind to something, there’s not much you can do,” Lewis said of Barker, who has lost just one region match this season.

In the other semifinal matches, No, 1-seeded Aspen Jarrett (Oldham County) will play No. 3-seeded Rheagan Biggs (North Oldham) in singles and the No. 2-seeded duo of Mallory Love and Maddie Waits will take on the No. 4-seeded duo of Hannah Walker and Jennifer Liu.

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