For Caldwell County senior Maddie Morgan, it’s hard not to be upset.
This season was supposed to be the final chapter of what’s been one of the best runs, if not “the” best run, in Lady Tigers tennis history. And early swings were bringing back old memories.
After facing each other in the 2018 Second Region singles championship, Morgan and fellow senior — Belle Englebright — were teaming up once again in regular-season doubles, before separating (and hopefully meeting) for a 2020 Second Region individual title tilt.
“It’s really weird having to play your friend like that, when you just want to win,” Morgan said. “But you want them to win, too. That was hard.
“Belle and I built a strong relationship; especially the year we had to play each other. We were so nervous. We had never had to do something like that. We didn’t even get to have our coaches (then, Kim Farmer and Raymond Giannini). We were all we had on the court. We definitely have a strong relationship, and it’s only gotten bigger as we’ve won. And we definitely got to the top of our region.”
The only consolation: it’ll remain as such until 2021, when high school sports in Kentucky hopefully resume following the curb and containment of the coronavirus.
It’s a sickness that has shoplifted any chance at senior memories, affected families across the Commonwealth, and generally disturbed the day-to-day operations of the small households and largest governments.
Morgan is just trying to stay patient.
“Of course it’s very sad, because it was my last year to get that time to shine,” she said. “But it’s all part of God’s plan, and it’s what He wants. I just have to accept that.
“But I did a lot for myself over these last six years.”
At the top of Morgan’s memory bank is, understandably, the entire 2019 season. She and Chasie Phelps cemented themselves as one of the top-30 doubles pairs in the state by advancing into the 2019 KHSAA State Tournament’s second round — where the twosome were toppled by Scott County’s Grace Gardner and Raven Jones, 6-2 and 6-0. Englebright’s run into the top 16 only added more electricity, and there was hope of carrying the current into 2020 with a new coach in Steve Kukahiko.
“Usually when we go to state, we don’t expect much because it’s a totally different level than what we’re used to,” Morgan said. “I have been to state several times, and it’s always a good experience, win or lose. Even if I lost at state, I always learned something and experienced something new, and it made me a better player. State tennis is just a different level of tennis than we usually get to play. The experience is always fun, so I was very excited and was looking forward to going to state.”
Morgan knows there’s still a bright future ahead. She’s got a socially-distanced graduation to prepare for (“It’s a little weird, but I have to get ready for that,” she said), and her dual-credit classes are going to give her a fresh, comfortable approach to her collegiate plans of studying radiology and sonogram technology at Madisonville Community College this fall.
And though competitive tennis is no longer on the current docket, she isn’t hanging up the racket.
“Hopefully I’ll be able to get back on the tennis courts, because I still play with my dad and my uncle, and I get lessons,” she added. “I don’t really have a purpose for it anymore because all of that was for this year, but I still love it. And I’ll always do that, I feel like.”
There’s also incredible anticipation for her job, where she’s going into her second season helping at “The Fishing Hole” in Cadiz.
It’s a crazy busy place, particularly in the sizzle of summer, and social distancing won’t stop lake-lovers from popping in for a to-go plate before blitzing the bays for fishing and fun.
“I hope (we’re busy),” she laughed. “We were very busy last summer, and hopefully we will be again. Especially if we get to fully open.
“I didn’t even have to fill out an application. They just started me.”
And whether she knew it or not, Morgan was ready.
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