HALL OF FAME
Tigers hope to build on '11
March 21, 2012Bardstown High School
It’s easy to detect the excitement in Bryan Kellem’s voice when the Bardstown tennis coach talks about the upcoming season.
And there’s good reason for the upbeat tone.
For the first time in history, Bardstown sent a girls’ doubles team and a boys’ doubles team to state competition last year.
Despite losses to graduation and Gabi Hamilton moving on to pursue college classes while still of high school age, Kellem’s teams return two key components of the respective doubles teams that qualified for state.
The first is junior Anna Jones, who teamed with Hamilton in making school history as the first girls’ state entrant ever at Bardstown.
She will be paired with junior Riley Smith, who was part of a duo that won district last season. Kellem hopes the new partnership will pay off in a return to the state tournament.
“They are both experienced players and I have high hopes for them.”
The second returnee with state tournament experience under his belt is senior Clayton Brooks. Brooks played doubles last year with John Stone but will anchor the No. 1 spot in singles for the Tigers this time around.
“Clayton has really worked hard to improve his serve,” Kellem said. “We want him to focus on getting that first serve in for a winning point.”
Brooks has played doubles since he was in the eighth grade. He admits that it will be a major adjustment going to singles, but is looking forward to the challenge.
“I also play golf, which is an individual sport, and I understand that there is no one else to depend on and no one else to blame if something goes wrong. Also, in doubles, I played net because I am tall and didn’t work on groundstrokes that is needed in singles.”
He jokingly added one other major difference in playing singles and doubles.
“Playing singles is also more physically demanding because there’s a lot more running. I am going to have to be in better shape.”
The aforementioned players are among the 15 boys and 15 girls who made the squads at Bardstown. Unfortunately, Kellem said, he was forced to cut others who wanted to participate.
“We had a lot of players come out for the team, especially for a school our size,” he noted. “But I only have four courts and it’s just hard to do justice to everyone when it’s just me. I really hate to see some kids not get to play.”
There appears to be more experience returning amongst the girls as several of them will move up a spot this year.
“We had an exhibition with Nelson County the other day and all 15 of our girls won their match,” Kellem remarked. “Nelson County didn’t have all of their players but it was exciting to see all of the girls have success. We were more unified as all of the girls got to celebrate together.”
Senior Emalea Bischoff has played No. 2 singles for the past two seasons but will move into the top spot this year.
“Hannah Welch has greatly improved on her groundstrokes and will move up from No. 3 to No. 2,” Kellem said. “Her uncle is the head tennis coach at Florida and she went down there and worked with him during the offseason.”
Perhaps the player to watch this season and for years to come in area tennis circles is sixth-grader Selena Spencer. Despite her size (not even five feet tall), Kellem said the youngster’s game is head and shoulders above many of her fellow competitors.
“She has done a lot of work on her game and plays club tennis in Louisville. She plays in tournaments with her dad. I can’t wait to see how good she is going to be.”
Camille Walton and Sadie Thorell will compete for the fourth spot.
With Smith and Jones manning the to doubles position, seniors Nettie Finn and Rebekah Pate will play in the second spot. This will be their first team to compete at the varsity level after playing JV and exhibition matches for the past few seasons.
Sophomores Allie Tucker and Mikayla Dennison will be paired as doubles partners as well. Kellem said both girls have very good backhands and play well together.
On the boys’ side, junior Austin Chaney will follow Brooks in the singles rankings.
“He is not an overpowering player, but he gets the ball back across the net,” Kellem explained. “There aren’t going to be many balls that get past him.”
Chaney’s brother, Devin, is among several players competing for the third spot. (In most high school matches, points are garnered in three singles matches and two doubles matches. Others players compete in non-scoring exhibition matches.)
A much-improved Austin Bogards will play both singles and doubles for the Tigers.
Juniors Robert Ferguson and Austin Holzclaw played together last season in exhibition matches but will move up to the number two doubles team.
Kellem is also enjoying the tallest player he’s ever coached with this year’s edition of Tiger tennis.
“Jacob Grimes is 6’6” and wears a size 16 shoe,” he marveled. “He’s only a sophomore and is in his first year. At his height, he’s doing what you want, hitting the ball down.”
Kellem is anxious for the season to get underway.
“I have very high expectations for our team this year,” he said. “We’ve always been very strong in doubles competition, but I think this year we have a chance in both.”
Courtesy of Dennis George and the Kentucky Standard.