High School Sports

Sayre sophomore Rolph wins girls' state tennis title

Sophomore Madeline Rolph, who enrolled at Sayre in January, defeated Louisville Christian's Ellie Gerlach 6-4, 6-2 to earn the girls' state singles crown.
Sophomore Madeline Rolph, who enrolled at Sayre in January, defeated Louisville Christian's Ellie Gerlach 6-4, 6-2 to earn the girls' state singles crown. Herald-Leader

Sayre's Madeline Rolph now has as many state championships as she does semesters spent inside a high school. The sophomore, who was home-schooled until she enrolled at Sayre in January, won the girls' high school singles tennis championship Saturday with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Louisville Christian junior Ellie Gerlach.

Lexington players have now won 12 of the last 15 girls' singles championships.

The two had played twice prior to Saturday, each winning a match. Tension flared up between the two in the first set Saturday, as several close calls went both ways. Rolph, the No. 3 seed in the draw, said she was dealing with emotion on a different scale than she had in previous matches because of the environment.

"She was playing really well, and I don't think I was playing my best tennis, and I started to let it show," she said. "It was good either way. There's going to be conflicts and things you have to overcome. I had to stay calm and stop thinking about it."

Rolph started to rein in her emotions, and that's when she said she played her best of the day. She broke Gerlach twice early in the second set and raced out to a 5-1 lead with a serve for the match. Then nerves kicked in. "I saw the finish line too soon," she said.

Gerlach claimed one more break, but Rolph broke back and clinched her championship with a cross-court forehand winner.

No. 3 Austin Hussey, a Covington Catholic sophomore, won the boys' singles championship with his second straight win over a St. Xavier opponent: He beat the draw's top overall seed, St. Xavier's Sean Donohue, in Saturday morning's semifinal before topping Tigers sophomore Brandon Lancaster for the championship, 6-4, 7-5.

Hussey won the first set relatively easily before cramps overtook each player's body in the second. Both players used injury timeouts in vain attempts to find a quick fix after a long week of tennis.

Hussey and Lancaster both slowed to a near-halt, hitting almost every stroke high into the air without the apparent energy or physical ability to consistently hit anything harder. Gravity officiated the latter part of the match as much as the chair umpire did.

On his third match point, Hussey stretched his opponent out behind the baseline, and a Lancaster forehand that sailed wide clinched the match.

"I've never really had to play through cramps like that," Hussey said. He said both thighs and his right forearm were cramping during the second set. "I was just doing anything I could to stay in there."

Sacred Heart senior Katherine English won her third state doubles championship in a row, her first with senior partner Sydney Thompson. English and Thompson, the tournament's top seed, finished an undefeated season with a title-match win over No. 2-seeded Catriona Shaughnessy and Laura Irons of Notre Dame, 6-0, 7-6 (7-0).

The Sacred Heart pair breezed through the first set in 19 minutes. When English and Thompson came to the bench after the first set, Sacred Heart Coach Kristen English told her team the second set would be different.

"We've played them so many times," English said. "I said, 'They will get going, and they will come back. So be ready.' And they did, and they came back. I knew they'd get warmed up."

Notre Dame indeed stabilized in the second set, keeping on serve and eventually moving up a break at 4-3 on the strength of Shaughnessy's backcourt play.

So Kristen English told her team to charge in on Shaughnessy's lobs, playing them out of the air or on the rise instead of waiting. Sacred Heart quickly broke back and held serve until the second-set tiebreaker, sweeping through it to clinch the championship.

Katherine English is the first girls' doubles player to win three state championships in a row since 1978.

No. 1-seeded Zachary Kuo and Parker Thienman of St. Xavier won the boys' doubles title over St. X teammates Nick Waldeck and Coleman Cox, the tournament's second seed, 6-3, 6-2. Kuo and Thienman, both seniors, each made the semifinals of the 2012 doubles draw with different partners before clinching their first championship Saturday.

St. Xavier coach Kerry Lancaster took a hands-off approach with the championship match in the interest of fairness to his players, he said.

"Everyone wants to win a state championship," Lancaster said. "Not that I'm sure we'd sway one way or the other, but we love both teams."