Exciting finish

Franklin County's Amato-Williams win doubles title, Barker is runner-up

By Nate Parsons Published:

Franklin County’s doubles team of Lili Williams and Mary Grace Amato didn’t lose a regular-season match in region play.

So it was only fitting that the senior duo would make it through the region tournament unbeaten as well.

The top-seeded team of Williams and Amato beat North Oldham’s second-seeded team of Mallory Love and Maddie Waits 6-4, 6-4 in the championship match of the Region 8 tournament Thursday night at Franklin County High School.

“They were seeded No. 1 and came out No. 1,” Franklin County coach Melinda Lewis said.

Franklin County’s second-seeded Kelley Barker lost a thrilling and exhausting, three-hour championship match to Oldham County’s top-seeded Aspen Jarrett 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (9-7).

All three girls — along with Western Hills’ Henry Collett — advance to the KHSAA State Tennis Championships May 15-17 in Lexington. The girls will play at Shillito Park and the boys will play at the University of Kentucky.

“This is my sixth year coaching and I’ve only taken a team to state once and here we’ve got two teams going,” said Lewis, who is in her last season because of health reasons. “It’s such an exciting time and you get to play in the big arenas and there’s hundreds of people there watching you.

“They’ll thrive and they’re really excited. Each and every one of them earned it.”

In the doubles championship match, Williams and Amato were pretty much in control throughout, despite letting Love and Waits get back in it both sets.

Williams and Amato led the first set 4-0 and were up 5-2 in the second.

“I guess we kind of got ahead of ourselves a little bit,” Amato said. “We could taste it and we kind of lost focus.”

But each set, the future Transylvania University teammates managed to finish it off when they needed to.

“We knew in that game it had to happen,” Williams said. “Either we tie and have to play a tiebreaker or we win. We felt really confident though.”

In the singles championship match, Barker and Jarrett went back and forth before Jarrett was finally able to pull it out.

“It’s disappointing more than anything,” said Barker, a sophomore. “I wanted it really bad and it sucks not getting it.”

Barker trailed 3-0 in the first set before coming back to force the tiebreaker. She was also down 3-2 and 6-5 — after being up 5-4 — in the second set before once again rallying for the tiebreaker.

“I tried not to get skunked (in the first set) and I pulled it together for a little while,” Barker said.

“We went back and forth a lot (in the second set).”

Barker, who is best friends with Jarrett as the two play as doubles partners in USTA matches, lost for the second time to Jarrett this season — her only two losses in region play.

“I know she’s upset ... but there’s nothing wrong with being region runner-up as a sophomore in high school,” Lewis said. “That’s a great accomplishment.”

In the boys championship matches, South Oldham made it a clean sweep. Top-seeded Jordan Pitts beat second-seeded teammate Cameron Mount 6-3, 6-0, and in doubles, the third-seeded duo of Dawson Bezehertny and Tony Liu upset North Oldham’s top-seeded duo of Seth Wallace and David Kline 6-3, 6-2.

Regional tournament team champions were South Oldham over North Oldham for the boys and North Oldham winning in a playoff over South Oldham for the girls.

Bullitt East’s Hunter Norris and Frankfort’s Emily Ballantyne won the KHSAA Senior 8th Region Sportsmanship Award voted by regional coaches.

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