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Mustangs' girls doubles team reaches semis

By Daniel Paulling dpaulling@paducahsun.com

LEXINGTON - One day after a disappointing loss, Madelyn Kauffman sealed a major win.

The McCracken County sophomore hit the winning shot in a 6-3, 6-7 (4-7), 10-8 victory Friday afternoon to send her and McKenna Garneau to the semifinals of the KHSAA girls doubles state tournament at the University of Kentucky's Boone/Downing Tennis Complex.

The win comes after Kauffman lost the No. 3 singles match in McCracken's 3-2 loss to Sacred Heart in the girls team tournament Thursday night.

"I just wasn't going to let that match affect me," Kauffman said. "As emotional as it was and how bad it tore me up, I just tried to come out here and win for McKenna and for me to get some confidence back. I know we could've won that match, and we proved it."

Kauffman and Garneau beat Notre Dame's Bess Fley and Abby Roebker, who were seeded third and who beat them 6-0, 6-1 in March. The Mustangs duo were blunt describing that match.

"They destroyed us," Kauffman said.

"It was awful," added Garneau, a junior.

Kauffman and Garneau spent the time since then learning how to play better as a pair. The work helped them win the tense rematch, and they'll face the top-seeded duo of Sarah Stearman and Emily Zelichenok of Manual today at 8 a.m.

Kauffman and Garneau don't have a specific seed but are listed among four duos in the five through eight range.

They cruised to a 6-3 first-set win against Fley and Roebker. Both teams held serve for the first seven games, but Kauffman and Garneau broke serve on the eighth and won the ninth game.

Fley and Roebker won the first two games of the second set but lost four in a row before taking five of the last seven games. They won the tiebreaker to set up the third-set match tiebreaker.

"It is the most nerve-racking thing, especially knowing we want to win it so bad," Garneau said. "There are no words that can describe that feeling of going to a third-set tiebreaker."

Added McCracken coach Larry Heflin - "Acceptance is the first step of those recovery programs. We have to accept it and deal with it. It's very tough, but we practice those things."

Kauffman and Garneau jumped to a 4-0 lead in the match tiebreaker, but Fley and Roebker brought the score to 5-4. The Notre Dame duo trimmed their deficit to 8-7 and 9-8, but that's when Kauffman returned a volley down the left side of the court for the 10-8 win.

"It meant absolutely everything," Kauffman said. "There was a huge opportunity for me to hit that shot. I just took it. I knew I could make it. I have no words for it, I'm so happy."

Whitnell's strong

run ends

Graves County junior Emily Whitnell couldn't rally one more time Friday morning.

She was eliminated in the round of 16 in the girls singles tournament, falling 6-0, 6-1 to Sacred Heart senior and University of Louisville-bound Caroline Walter.

"It took me a while to get used to her topspin," Whitnell said. "I stayed with it and got a game off her. She's playing at Louisville, so I lost to a good player."

Whitnell staged an excellent comeback Thursday to advance to the second day for the first time. She beat North Laurel's Pooja Kanthawar 3-6, 6-0, 10-3 in her round of 32 match.

"I really just gained my composure in the second set, got more focused and then I knew I could win the whole match," Whitnell said. "She started making mistakes in the second set. I think she started to get a little upset in the second set because she wasn't playing as well."

Whitnell has another year to advance another round or beyond.

"It was a nice experience to make it to the second day," she said. "Hopefully, I can get farther."

Boys singles - McCracken County sophomore Tommy Hagan lost his round of 16 match against Jordan Pitts, 6-2, 6-1.

Boys doubles - McCracken County's Grant Hammons and Mat Townsend won two matches Friday to advance to the state semifinals, where they'll play St. Xavier's Coleman Cox and Nick Quinones at 8 a.m. today. Cox and Quinones, both seniors, are seeded third. McCracken's duo is seeded first.

Girls singles - McCracken County freshman Michelle McKamey advanced to the state semifinals with a dominating 6-0, 6-0 win against Walter. The third-seeded McKamey plays second-seeded Ellie Gerlach of Louisville Christian at 8 a.m. Gerlach beat McKamey 6-3, 6-2 last year.

Girls doubles - The Caldwell County duo of junior Kate Phelps and sophomore Annie Wetzel lost their round of 16 match to Fley and Roebker.

Call Daniel Paulling, a Sun sports writer, at 270-575-8662, or follow on Twitter @DanielPaulling.

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