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There won't be many surprises around Amanda and Hannah Wampler this year.
The Anderson County doubles tandem caught nearly everyone, including themselves, off guard with their run to the Eighth Region tennis tournament final in 2012, but even though they are noticeably better players in 2013, no one is guaranteeing a repeat or better when the tennis post-season gets underway next week.
The girls will play their first two rounds at Western Hills High School on Monday, then move to Franklin County the rest of the week.
“I think everybody has been expecting us,” Hannah Wampler, a sophomore at Anderson County High, says of their continued success. The Wamplers probably won't be the tournament's top seed, but a word to the wise is to not overlook them.
A year ago, those around the Anderson Camp knew the Wamplers had a chance to advance deep into the regional tournament, but when they got to the semi-finals – and the state tournament berth that went with that – nearly everyone around the region began to take notice of the team that played like, well, sisters.
There are times when their court communication is such that the Wamplers appear to be one person with two racquets covering the entire court. Then there are times when their differences work to their advantage.
“Hannah is the fire of our team,” says Amanda, a senior who will attend Wittenberg University in Ohio next fall. “Anywhere we go, it is because she really wants it.”
It's not unusual to see Hannah exploding along the baseline, delivering a wicked backhand while Amanda methodically works for accurate volleys. Then after scoring a point, the sisters look at each other and touch racquets, the tennis version of the high-five.
“Amanda is the one who calms me down when I really worked up,” Hannah smiles. “We balance each other out.”
The Wamplers' love of tennis might have come from their grandfather, who lives in Ogden, Utah. The sisters went west for about a month last summer and worked on tennis practically all day while there.
“He really helped so much with our form and how to play the game right,” Amanda Wampler says.
A year ago, the Wamplers pulled off the upset of the regional tournament when they defeated the second-seeded team of Sarah Hawes and Jennifer Liu of South Oldham in the semis. The following day, the North Oldham team of Taylor McGuire and Nicole Walton ended the Wamplers' dream of a title.
In a strange quirk of the draw, Hawes and Liu got revenge in the first round of the state tournament a week later, defeating the Wampler 6-4, 6-3.
“The year before, when I was in the eighth grade, we didn't get very far (in the region),” Hannah Wampler says. “As we progressed farther in the touranment, we began to see winning the region as a possibility but I wasn't expecting to go as far as we did,” Hannah smiles.
Just getting that far again will be a difficult task. The North Oldham and South Oldham teams are both back and Hannah says Franklin County has taken a couple of strong singles players and turned them into a doubles tandem.
“We are going to have to play some tough teams. It will be a challenge,” she says.
“We have a shot,” Amanda Wampler says.
But the Wampler sisters aren't feeling much pressure. It's all about cherishing a moment that few athletes in any sport get to experience at a high level.
Next year, Amanda will be in college, perhaps playing intramural tennis. Hannah is expected to be Anderson's top singles player.
“There is a little bit of pressure,” Amanda Wampler says, “but I am more thankful that I have gotten to play tennis with Hannah.”
And, in one of the state's tougher regions at the top with the Oldham County schools, it is possible that the Wamplers will see their high school careers end next week. If that happens, there are still no worries.
“It would be a disappointment,” Amanda Wampler admits. “This is our last year playing together. But if we don't get it, that is fine. I just want to be glad that we got to play together one more year.”
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