High School Sports

LexCath junior Lewis ready to win a state tennis title on his own

Lexington Catholic junior Zack Lewis is no stranger to the KHSAA tennis finals.

When he was an eighth-grader in 2008, he and his doubles partner — then-sophomore Ryne Least — made it to the quarterfinal round. They followed it up with a runner-up finish in 2009.

Last year, Lewis and Least took it one step further and brought home the state doubles championship — the first doubles title in Lexington Catholic's history.

This year is nothing new for Lewis, as he is making yet another push toward a state championship.

But this time he's doing it on his own, and he is relying on his past success to help him with the challenges of singles play.

"When I was here in eighth grade, I was extremely nervous," he said. "There was a lot of people around. But just as years went on, I gained more confidence and lost my nerves. I hope that transfers over to this tournament well."

It seems to have translated so far as he has yet to drop a set. He advanced to Saturday's semifinal round with a 7-5, 6-1 win over Loan Oak junior Bobby Kaltenbech on Friday.

Earlier this season, Lewis became the first boy in Lexington Catholic history to win a regional championship.

Coach Ann Tramontin Bruggeman said Least's graduation last year and the dynamic of this year's team put Lewis in the singles role.

After three years of doubles, Lewis had to make adjustments to his game to be successful in singles.

"In doubles you come to the net a lot," he said. "I didn't get to hit a lot of ground strokes, so after I played doubles I had to work on my ground strokes a lot.

"It's a really small court when you play singles, so I had to change up my shots and hit a lot more angles."

But Lewis also noted those three years in doubles helped, in a way, to prepare him for singles by forcing him to be consistent with his first serve. That's because softer serves can end up leaving a partner at the net vulnerable to getting hit by a hard return.

Tramontin Bruggeman said she's proud of how Lewis has responded in his first year of singles.

"It's a whole different ball game in a singles tournament than it is in the doubles," she said. "But I think he's risen to the occasion. To get in the semifinals is huge. Anything above that is icing on the cake."

His chance to move on will come Saturday when he takes on St. Xavier junior Alex Gornet. Lewis said familiarity could play in his favor.

Lewis and Gornet play as a doubles team in USTA sanctioned tournaments, so Lewis is familiar with Gornet's playing style.

They also met in a singles match two years ago in a USTA tournament. Gornet won.

"It helps that I've played with him for so long," Lewis said. "He's playing really well right now, so I'll have to play my best to have a shot. He beat me last time, so, hopefully, I can get some revenge."

Gornet eased past Corbin's Brody Freeman 6-0, 6-0 to reach Saturday's semifinals.

If Lewis were to win Saturday, he would become the first Lexington Catholic player to win both a doubles and singles state championship.

"That would just be a great accomplishment for me and my school if I could somehow pull that off," he said.