Akers twins give Danville third straight region doubles title
Boyle girls win team region title
The Akers sisters are 3 for 3 in their No. 3 sport.
Twins Jenna Akers and Lara Akers freely admit that tennis is their “offseason sport.” Yet they continue to excel in a sport that is a lower priority for them than the other games they play for Danville.
They added one more championship to a list of achievements that places them among their school’s most accomplished female athletes Monday by winning their third consecutive 12th Region girls doubles title.
And they might not be done.
The two seniors could conclude their Danville athletic careers June 1 in the state tennis tournament, or they could return for a fifth year of high school, a possibility they said they are considering.
If this is it for them, they are happy to go out with another regional title in a sport that stokes their competitive fires when their other sports are idle.
“We’re just glad to finish our senior year with a win,” Jenna Akers said. “And it’s just really fun to go out there. This is like our offseason sport, so we just step out there and play, win or lose — most likely win, we have to win — then we just have a good time with our friends and the coaches and different other people.”
The Akers sisters defeated Edie Clark and Maggie Cerqueira 6-3, 7-5 in the regional final at Centre College, rallying from an early deficit to avenge a regular-season defeat that gave the Boyle duo the No. 1 seed.
“We just knew that we had to turn it on if we wanted to be region champions. We had to back up what we’ve already won,” Jenna Akers said.
The Boyle girls won their first regional team title since 2017 without winning either of the individual championships.
“We are a young team, and I was surprised that the girls did win the team championship being that young,” Boyle coach Tao Costello said. “We didn’t have some of the older players, the best players, but we were deep enough to put it all together and get enough wins for that team championship.”
Boyle had clinched its first team title since 2017 before Monday’s finals began.
“That took a little bit of the pressure off, but we still wanted to get that one,” Costello said.
Cerqueira and Clark took a 2-1 lead in the first set of the doubles final before the Akers rallied. The Danville duo won the last three games of a close second set to close out the match.
“They’re just phenomenal athletes and big competitors, and when you put that combination with the skill that they have, it’s going to be a tough group to beat,” Danville coach Brent Beauman said. “They’re fun to watch and fun to be around. We’ll talk in between points, and it’s more just keeping them focused and reminding them how competitive they are and to go out and win points.”
Lara Akers said this might well have been the toughest of their three regional finals to win.
“We were fighting in the second set so we wouldn’t have to play a tiebreaker,” she said.
“We just had to get used to how they were playing. They’re really good players,” Jenna Akers added.
Jenna Akers said she and her sister make extensive use of the lob shot in their preferred style of play.
“We love to lob,” she said. “Lobbing is one of our specialties, and whenever we lob we just hope for a short ball or we hope to switch them to where it’s tough on them, and we hope to get an easy point at the net.”
Lara Akers said they’re also evaluating their opponents during warmups.
“When we warm up, we like to focus on each person we play to spot their weaknesses and what we can see that would help us win the points,” she said.
The Akers sisters are best known for playing basketball and soccer at Danville. In four years, they helped the Danville girls basketball team go 77-36 with two 45th District championships, three trips to the 12th Region semifinals, four 12th Region All “A” Classic titles and one trip to the All “A” Classic semifinals. They also helped the girls soccer team go 43-31-2 with two 45th District championships and four trips to the 12th Region semifinals.
They were also on the swim team for several years, and this year they are serving as manager for the baseball team when they aren’t playing tennis.
They love that tennis gives them another avenue for competition, but they are far from full-time players. They said they didn’t pick up a racket last year after the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We didn’t pick up one until after basketball because that’s when the season started, and we just practice for, like, an hour or an hour and a half,” Jenna Akers said.
Even so, Lara Akers said it wasn’t hard to get back into the flow of the game.
“It was a year or so off, but … it just kind of felt natural to get back into it,” she said.
Some of the Akers’ coaches and teammates from their other sports were on hand Monday to cheer them on.
“We love the support that we have at Danville schools and the people and coaches that come watch us in every sport,” Lara Akers said.
They also would love to win a match or two at the state tournament, where they lost in the first round in 2018 and reached the second round in 2019.
By then, they will have made their decision about whether to return to Danville or move on to college this summer. Kentucky Senate Bill 128, which became law earlier this spring, allows students to effectively repeat this school year with the approval of their school district, and students who requested to do so before the May 1 deadline — including 17 Danville students — have until Monday to rescind those requests if they wish to move on to the next grade or to college.
Jenna Akers said she and her sister have not yet decided what they’re going to do. The two girls said they will almost certainly stay together, whether they return to Danville together or go on to college.
Lara Akers said they would love to have another year of high school sports “because you’re going to miss that when you go to college,” and she said sports have been important to their development.
“Sports has helped us (learn) time management, persevere and all that,” she said. “They taught us to be who we are today. Without Danville schools and sports, then we wouldn’t be who we are as a person today.”
Boyle’s Cerqueira and Clark, both sophomores, defeated the Akers in split sets during the regular season to earn the No. 1 seed for the regional.
“I’m super proud of them earning that No. 1 seed,” Costello said. “They came up short today, but they played their hearts out. I don’t want them to think that they let any of us down.”
All four Boyle singles and doubles entries won at least one match to help Boyle edge Danville 10-9 for the girls team championship. Jaina Burkett, the No. 3 seed in the singles draw, reached the semifinals.
The same was true for Danville, which finished second in the team standings after its doubles championship. Lucy Kate Gibson won twice to reach the singles quarterfinals.
“It was a good group to be with this year,” Beauman said. “To be able to do that says a lot for the program and the team.”
Casey County won the boys team championship, edging Boyle County in a tiebreaker after Casey’s Gunner Floyd and Ethan Willoughby defeated Boyle’s Kyle Burkett and Coleman Clark 6-3, 6-2 for the doubles title.
The two teams tied with 10 points each, but Casey had the highest percentage of games won by all of its players during the tournament, which broke the tie.
12th Region Tournament
At Bate Middle School and Centre College
(Seeds in parentheses; semifinalists advance to state tournament)
1. x-Casey County 10; 2. Boyle County 10; 3. Pulaski County 8; 3. West Jessamine 8; 5. Lincoln County 7; 8. Mercer County 4; t10. Danville 1.
x-won tiebreaker for team championship
• Champion — Jacob Senters (2; West Jessamine)
• Runner-up — Jackson Martin (1; Pulaski County)
• Semifinalists — Nate Goode (4; Casey County); Matthew Da Costa (5; Boyle County)
• Champion — Gunner Floyd-Ethan Willoughby (1; Casey County)
• Runner-up — Kyle Burkett-Coleman Clark (2; Boyle County)
• Semifinalists — Ethan Carter-Ben Hampton (3; Pulaski County); Carter Muse-Aaron Cook (5; Lincoln County)
1. Boyle County 10; 2. Danville 9; 3. East Jessamine 8; 5. Casey County 6; t6. Garrard County 5; t6. Mercer County 5; t11. Lincoln County 1.
• Champion — Lydia Prince (1; East Jessamine)
• Runner-up — Emma Calfee (2; Pulaski County)
• Semifinalists — Jaina Burkett (3; Boyle County); Malory Watkins (4; Garrard County)
• Champion — Jenna Akers-Lara Akers (2; Danville)
• Runner-up — Edie Clark-Maggie Cerqueira (1; Boyle County)
• Semifinalists — Hana Dixon-Susannah Prince (3; East Jessamine); Mollie Harne-Karis Cundiff (5; Casey County)