Grace Jennings found out Tuesday she had mononucleosis and almost pulled out of the KHSAA State Tennis Tournament. After thinking it over, the Louisville Christian junior decided to play anyway.
Fighting through fatigue all week, Jennings wound up winning the state singles championship. She beat Madeline Rolph of Sayre 6-4, 6-1 in Saturday afternoon's finals indoors at the University of Kentucky's Boone/Downing Tennis Complex.
"It's kind of a crazy situation," Jennings said. "It was an up-and-down roller coaster all week. I wasn't sure I could make it through the whole tournament. So it was a mental strategy. I told myself, 'I'm not sick. I'm fine, and I should beat these people anyway.' And it worked.
"Now I'm going to need bed rest all week to heal up."
Jennings lost only eight games in six matches. Her most impressive showing was a 6-0, 6-1 semifinal victory over defending champion Michelle McKamey of McCracken County.
"I think the scores surprised some people, and I kind of shocked myself," Jennings said.
Jennings didn't play high school tennis last year to train for other tournaments.
As a freshman she lost to Rolph in the state quarterfinals, and Rolph went on to take the state title that year.
Saturday's rematch went to Jennings.
"She's gotten a lot better," Rolph said. "She's grown, and now she's taller than I am.
"She just hits a really big ball, and she played great today. It was back and forth a lot. It came down to a couple points here and there, and she made those good shots."
Rolph, who has commited to play at Bowdoin College in Maine, was happy with her tournament showing. She was most proud of her 6-1, 6-2 semifinal victory over Highlands' Meredith Laskey, who beat her in last year's semis.
"I had a lot of determination in that match," Rolph said. "I really wanted to win it.
"It was a good week for me. I'm disappointed losing the finals, but I played hard."
St. Xavier senior Brandon Lancaster repeated as boys' singles champion. He beat St. X teammate Drew Singerman 6-2, 6-2 in the finals.
"It was a pretty strong week for me," said Lancaster, who has signed with Louisville. "I think I played as well as I could have hoped for."
Singerman upset Covington Catholic's Austin Hussey in the semifinals. Hussey beat Lancaster in the 2013 finals, and was runner-up to him last year.
"It didn't surprise me Drew beat him," Lancaster said. "Drew's played great all year.
"I didn't like playing him in the finals because we're such good friends. But it is what it is."
Henry Clay senior Ryo Takeda made it to Saturday morning's semifinals before falling to Lancaster 6-2, 6-2. Takeda received the tournament's National Guard Best and Brightest Award.
In boys' doubles, Tommy Hagan and Logan McKinney of McCracken County, who were seeded fifth, upset top-seeded Kamron Akrami and Matt Graft of St. X 6-4, 6-7, 10-8 in the finals.
Lexington had two doubles teams in the boys' semifinals. Henry Clay's Kiefer Mays and Noah Tapp lost to Akrami and Graft 7-5, 6-3. Brody Bilderback and Adam Slone of Lexington Christian lost to Hagan and McKinney 6-3, 7-6.
In the girls' doubles finals, Sarah Stearman and Emily Zelichenok of Manual, the No. 1 seed, beat Alexis Austin and Caroline Cox of Collegiate 4-6, 6-4, 10-6.
St. X continued its dominance in the team competition. The Tigers beat Covington Catholic to win their seventh championship in a row and 24th overall.
McCracken County, in its second year of existence, took the girls' team championship by beating Notre Dame in the finals.