LEXINGTON — The rapid rise of Franklin County sophomore Kelley Barker was slowed by a speed bump, so to speak, in the form of Fort Thomas Highlands junior Meredith Laskey Thursday morning in the first round of the KHSAA State Tennis Tournament.
Laskey, the No. 4 seed, played a high level, steady game, and eased by Barker, 6-0, 6-1, in a match that was not as one-sided as that result indicates.
Franklin County coach Melinda Lewis said that Barker did not play poorly, but that Laskey’s edge in the kind of shot-making that comes with experience played a big role.
Barker has only played tennis for some three years, and she struggled to find answers for some of the weapons that Laskey threw her way.
“Kelley made her work,” Lewis said. “There were no points where Laskey didn’t have to work. But she is good. You don’t get the No. 4 seeding without being really good.”
More specifically, Laskey had a slice shot that gave Barker fits at times, and other than that, the Highlands star simply out-steadied her FCHS counterpart.
“Things that Kelley can usually win on, like winners down the lines ... most people she plays can’t get to those, but that girl — she got them all back,” Lewis said. “Her slice shot is great, and she can hit it from both the forehand and backhand side.”
Barker said she prefers a more straight forward, faster paced hitting match.
“It was difficult,” Barker said. “I can hit the slice shots and stuff, but she had lots of heavy top spin that made me play a different game than I usually do. So it was more like she was playing her game, and I never played my game. I had to react, instead of hitting shots like I usually do.”
“She had the ability to move Kelley back and forth, and that comes from a lot of training and a lot of experience,” Lewis said.
This was Barker’s first trip to state, and most certainly won’t be her last.
Barker is serious about the game, and serious about getting better.
Barker said her summer promises to be filled with a lot of competitive tennis. She plans to travel to several tournaments with her good friend, Aspen Jarrett of Oldham County, who — ironically — beat Barker 7-6, 7-6 in last week’s Region 8 Tournament singles final.
“I’m going to play a lot of tournaments,” Barker said. “I’ll travel to some with Aspen out of state, and play a lot in-state, too.
“I’ve really improved the last few months, especially with my backhand getting a lot more consistent and faster, and I want a better forehand,” she added. “And I want to be a smarter player. I can play smart at times, but I want to play smart all the time.”