BY ROCKY STANLEY
THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
ASHLAND Sisters don’t always see eye to eye, but the 16th Region Tennis Tournament is proof they can shine together on the court.
For the first time, two sets of sisters will meet for the region doubles championship. Today’s finals are set for 4:30 p.m. at Ashland Tennis Center.
Russell’s top-seeded Maci and MiaFerguson and No. 2 Makenzie and Maria Hayes of East Carter advanced
Tuesday’s results | PAGE B4
with convincing semifinal performances Tuesday.
“I think it’s great,” Makenzie Hayes said.
Both doubles teams are savoring the success after having their doubts earlier about how the sister connections would work out.
“”We use to fight a lot out there,” said Maria Hayes, an eighth-grader. “As I’ve improved more, (Makenzie) has been able to trust me.”
The Hayes sisters defeated Russell’s Ashley Nguyen and Kendall Jackson 6-2, 6-0 in the semifinals. Makenzie has more than 100 doubles wins during her lengthy high school career. Last year, she and senior Milena Clarke became East Carter’s first girls to reach the State Tournament.
Jeff Porter, East Carter’s 25thyear coach, points to MacKenzie’s ground strokes as a strength.
“She gets every ball back it seems,” Porter said. “I play mixed doubles with her and we’ve won several tournaments. She has a good tennis IQ. Makenzie is like a coach on the court.”
Maria has the potential to become the top girls player to come through ECHS, according to her coach.
“Oh gosh,” Porter said. “I can see her being able to go to state for five straight years in singles or doubles.”
The Fergusons rolled into the finals with a 6-1, 6-0 win over Ashland’s Emma Johnson and seventh- grader Abby Meek.
Maci Ferguson, a senior, won two state doubles with Kierstin Hensley before shifting to singles last year at regionals.
Freshman Mia’s game is on rise. She home-schooled during the first semester while working extensively with former Marshall coach Laurie Mercer in Huntington. Mercer overhauled her swing.
“A lot’s changed, her strokes and basically her whole game,” said mother/coach Larra Ferguson.
It took some time, however, for Maci and Mia to find a rhythm together.
“At first it was nerve-racking, because I knew I was playing with a two-time state champion,” Mia said. “Maci and Kierstin knew exactly how each other played and where to be. At the beginning of this season, me and Maci did things like let balls go between us.”
A turning point came in February at the Jason Isaacs Memorial Doubles Tournament, a USTA event in Louisville. The Fergusons knocked off the 2017 states doubles champion Beavin twins of North Oldham.
“Our goal was to just play the best we could ... until then,” Maci said. “Mia was on fire. I had never seen her play that well, and she’s been on a roll since then.”
The Fergusons are unbeaten in high school doubles this season, including the Deco Turf national tournament. Maci, a Georgetown College signee, and Mia own wins over Scott County and Lexington Christian teams that reached the 2017 state semifinals and quarterfinals, respectively.
“I’m excited to see how far we go, this being my last year,” Maci said. “I hope we can do well at state.”
The two sisters might be described as polar opposites.
“Mia is pretty much on one end of the spectrum, and Maci’s on the other,” Larra Ferguson said. “They resemble each other a little bit on looks. Other than that, there’s nothing else about them that’s the same. Mia’s a firecracker and likes to be the center of attention. Maci is quiet and likes to stay out of the spotlight.”
Mia had a scare Friday night when she rolled her ankle.
“I pulled ligaments and tendons in my left foot,” she said. “I’ve been icing it and haven’t practiced since Friday.”
The younger Ferguson said the injury caused her some trouble serving Tuesday.
“Maci did a good job rallying at the baseline,” Mia said. “My net game I think was pretty good.
The girls singles division will be decided by two Hills — Greenup County’s Madison and Ashland’sEmma, also the top two seeds. Madison, a junior, blanked No. 4 Delaynee Sparks of Rose Hill and has yet to drop a game in the tournament. Sophomore Emma battled past Transylvania University signee Jessica Burton of Boyd County 6-4, 75.
On the boys’ side, defending champion Ashland claimed three of the four spots in the singles and doubles title matches.
Dominant Robby Krick moved within a victory of his third region singles title in four years by beating East Carter’s Mason Tomaselli 6-0, 6-0. He will meet second-seeded Michael Eastham, a 6-0, 6-2 winner over Jacob Barber of Rowan County.
The Tomcats’ doubles teams of Parker Clarke/Layne Meek and Justin Lucas/Mack Meek won their semifinal matches handily.
“We’re trying to be at our peak next week in Lexington,” Ashland coach Eddie Sizemore said. “This is one of the steps to accomplish that goal.