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FRANKFORT – The call for respect might be one of the most overused motivational ploys in all of sports, but it worked for Anderson County tennis on Monday.
Stung by what they perceived as a bigger disrespecting than Aretha or Reba ever got, the Bearcat and Lady Bearcat singles' tennis players turned in one of the best days ever for Anderson at the regional tournaments being held in Frankfort. All of the Anderson singles advanced to the second round, with two moving on to the regional quarterfinals, played Tuesday after press time.
The Anderson doubles teams did not fare as well, however, with all being eliminated in the first round.
Anderson's top boys' singles' player, Tyler Hyatt, used the respect card as a boost to outlast Franklin County's Alex Amato in a grueling 3-set affair that had the crowd at Franklin County High School stopping, watching and marveling at two competitors that did not want their seasons to end.
“All of the fans watching, it was crazy,” Hyatt said.
Hyatt used an effective lob and some deft cross-court shots to pull away from a 3-3 tie in the third set tie-breaker to eliminate Amato 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (7-5).
It was Hyatt's second win over Amato in three tries this year and second in a two-week span. The unseeded Hyatt admitted that Amato's fifth seed in the tournament botthered him. “A little bit,” he grinned. “But I guess it is better to play them early.”
Already delayed by rains that pushed the tournament's start back by over two hours, Hyatt and Amato battled through a two-and-a-half-hour marathon that saw both players battle from near elimination to force the tie-breaker.
Hyatt, who had taken a 2-1 lead early in the final set, needed a service break to stave off defeat after Amato had taken a 5-4 lead.
“We were both having trouble getting our serves in today,” Hyatt said.
The final few points were characterized by incredible volleys, some of which cleared the net more than 20 times before a point was earned. Down 5-4, Hyatt broke Amato's server, then after Amato returned the favor, Hyatt broke service again to force the tie-breaker.
In the extra play, Hyatt broke a 3-3 tie with a lob that was just out of Amato's reach and inside the baseline. He added another point with some great cross-court work that eventually got Amato out of position.
The players traded points until Hyatt worked right sideline for the match point.
Hyatt and his teammates arrived at the Franklin County complex expecting to start play around 9 a.m. but rain shower delayed the start until about noon. “It wasn't that bad,” he said. “I just had to focus on my game.”
It was the most-intense match Hyatt had ever experienced on the tennis court. “Oh, by far,” he said.
Hyatt went on to defeat Reese Milburn of Bullitt East in the second round to advance to Tuesday's quarterfinals.
Anderson junior Levi Cox also had a big start, routing North Bullitt's Sam Druen 6-0, 6-0 in the first round.
Cox was as dominant as the score indicated early in his match with Druen.
Anderson's top doubles team of Zack Allen and Josh Phillips was not as fortunate, falling to the Western Hills pair of Quentin Kennar and Dillan Mann, 2-6, 7-5, 6-4 in another grueling match that was as close as the score indicated.
The Franklin County duo of Tommy Robb and Kyle Scott defeated Anderson's Luke Warford and Lowell Gordon in straight sets.
Across town, at Western Hills High School, the Anderson girls' singles were also rolling, with seventh-seeded Kristen Hamrick turning a perceived seeding snub into an impressive 6-0, 6-0 win over Oldham County's Nicole Muller.
Hamrick and those around the Bearcat camp were surprised that she was seeded as low, especially after she had beaten one 6-3, 6-0 in recent weeks.
Monday, however, she was focused, not allowing a 2-hour rain delay bother her – “It was just boring,” she laughed. Hamrick made quick work of Muller, getting her serves in and relying on effective ground strokes. The Anderson senior did not record a single double fault the entire match.
“I played my best,” Hamrick said.
Hamrick went on to defeat South Oldham's Kalyn Wise in the second round to advance to the quarterfinals. Records are very sketchy, but it is believed that Hamrick is the first Anderson girls' tennis player to win two regional matches.
Anne-Marie Detherage, a very strong No. 2 singles player, romped past Gallatin County's Christine Barlow in the first round and was to have played Shelby County's Ellie Watts, the No. 6 seed, in the second round, but the match was delayed by rain and was to have been finished Tuesday after press time.
Detheraage advanced to the second round of the tournament for the third straight year, dispatching of Barlow in about an hour.
“I thought I played well,” she said. “Today, I was doing good on my first serve.”
Anderson's doubles tandem of Taylor Goodlett and Jessica Damron put up a tough fight but fell to the Mitchell-Stump team from Western Hills.
The other Anderson team of Chelsea Lane and Shelby Jesse were playing the Shelby County team of Emma Turner and Keira Lopez when rains halted their match Monday. It was to have been resumed after press time on Tuesday.
All of the entries from the regional team champion will advance to the state tournaments with other at-large entries from the region bringing the total to four singles and four doubles.
Updated results will be posted at www.theandersonnews.com as they become available.
E-mail John Herndon at email@example.com.