Girls State Tennis: Williams-Amato run ends with tough loss

FCHS doubles team eliminated in round of 16 at state

By Brian Rickerd, Published:

LEXINGTON — An outstanding senior season ended on a sour note for Franklin County’s Mary Grace Amato and Lili Williams Friday as they lost, 0-6, 1-6 to No. 5-seeded Maci Ferguson and Kierstin Hensley of Russell in the round of 16 at the KHSAA State Tennis Tournament.

Amato and Williams had breezed to a pair of wins in the tournament Thursday, but they ran up against a buzz saw in Ferguson, an eighth grader, and Hensley, a sophomore.

The Red Devils’ duo dominated play at the net, repeatedly hand-cuffing Williams and Amato and finding open spots with hard-hitting slams.

Williams and Amato steadied themselves just a bit early in the second set, winning a game to close within 1-2, but that momentum was short lived.

It was a shame to go out that way for Williams and Amato, who achieved so much this spring, going unbeaten in region play and winning the Lady Flyers’ first regional doubles crown since 1962.

But Williams and Amato were not in a big-picture mood in the immediate aftermath of Friday’s loss.

“I’m just angry because we played terrible,” said Amato through gritted teeth.

“We played bad ... terrible,” Williams added.

Franklin County coach Melinda Lewis said Ferguson and Hensley were just too good, too powerful, too consistent ...

“They (Ferguson/Hensley) are much more powerful than them (Williams/Amato),” Lewis said. “Russell was really good at the net and slammed it. We play more of a deep, forehand game, especially with Lili — she has a great forehand — and their net game was just overpowering.”

Ferguson and Hensley went on to defeat second-seeded Alexis Austin and Caroline Cox of Louisville Collegiate 0-6, 6-4, 10-8 in the quarterfinals Friday.

The team from Russell went on to win the state championship, defeating McCracken County’s Makenna Garneau and Madelyn Kauffman 6-3, 6-3 in the final.

Lewis said the round of 16, state tournament stage, along with the No. 5 billing of the Russell pair, contributed to the problems of Williams and Amato, especially early.

“They were nervous ... very nervous,” Lewis said. “This is a big stadium (and big stage). And whenever you play a seeded player, you get worried.”

However, Lewis said she expected the shock of such a loss to dissipate quickly for her doubles team because: A. They are resilient teenagers, and B. The Franklin County prom was Saturday night.

“That (prom) will take their minds off of this,” Lewis said. “And we made the sweet 16, by God. They did better than anyone ever expected them to do.”

Williams and Amato say they will play a lot of tennis this summer. That will likely continue for years to come. Both girls plan to attend Transylvania this fall and play tennis.

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