Boyle girls roll with the changes, remain atop tennis region

Published 3:00 pm Friday, May 10, 2024

Things have been different for the Boyle County girls tennis team this season, but one thing remains the same.

The Lady Rebels are still at the top of the 12th Region, and they hope to add to their string of championships when the regional team title is decided in a couple of weeks.

In a season of change that has seen new leaders emerge and its lineup remain in flux until only recently, Boyle has completed a fifth consecutive regular season in which it has gone undefeated against regional opponents.

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Boyle coach Tao Costello knew that wasn’t a given when he had to rebuild a lineup that had been largely stable for the past two or three years, and he said that made this season even more fun for him.

“I was like, ‘It’s not going to last forever, and I think some other teams are catching us and we graduated those players,’” and they’ve pulled it off,” Boyle coach Tao Costello said. “We’ve had some really close matches, but we made it through another season.”

Boyle graduated its top singles players and doubles team from last season, leaving those who returned to move up in the lineup and into leadership roles.

“We lost some of our big players last year, which was kind of hard on us this year, but we’ve been figuring it out,” said junior Hannah Bischoff, part of Boyle’s No. 1 doubles team. “And as a team we started off maybe a little rusty, but we’ve worked our way up and we’re here where we are now. We’re super proud of everybody that worked their way up.”

There is still work to be done. Boyle began play Tuesday night in a restructured postseason that separates team and individual championships, taking the first step toward a fourth consecutive regional title with a victory over Lincoln County in a 45th District semifinal.

“These girls had big shoes to fill, and they’re stepping up and I’m super proud of them,” Costello said.

It will be some time before the team title is decided. The KHSAA has created a system of separate tournaments to decide team and individual champions, and the regional team championship won’t be decided until at least May 22, after individual singles and doubles champions are crowned.

Boyle was to play Danville for the 45th District girls title and a regional team tournament berth on Wednesday, but that match was rained out.

No matter when they get to play, the Lady Rebels believe they have a real chance to extend their run of regional dominance that began in 2016 and has brought them five titles in seven seasons. (The 2020 season was canceled.)

“I think we can keep pushing it and keep winning region titles,” said senior Emma Young, who plays at No. 1 singles for Boyle.

Young said there is experience at the top of the roster, even after the loss of four seniors last year, and young players have filled the open spots nicely.

“We have a lot of newer people starting this year. That’s good because they’re all younger and they can keep working up and take our program (forward),” she said.

Young and Kristine Tran each moved up one spot to the Nos. 1 and 2 singles positions this season, but the No. 1 doubles team of Bischoff and Maya Smith didn’t come together until late in the season and played only two or three matches together prior to the district tournament.

“It’s basically finding the right people, and then a lot of people had conflicts (with other activities and missed) practices and matches,” Smith said.

“We just played with who we had and then moved them around, changed them up a couple times, and they just went along with it,” Costello added. “I talk to them about it and tell them this is what I think we should do that is best for the team, and we’re all about the team and then all the individual stuff comes after that.”

Smith and Bischoff said they have been working well in their short time together.

“I feel like we have a really good relationship because we’re friends outside of tennis, and so we have good communication skills and we know when to go for what (shots) and how to listen to each other,” Smith said.

Costello said he likes the new postseason format because it brings an extra player into the mix. Team matches consist of three singles matches and two doubles matches, with the first team to win three of those individual matches getting the team victory.

Only six players per school – two singles players and two doubles teams – can compete in the individual tournament, which begins Monday and is scheduled to continue through May 20.

If the Boyle girls get through to the regional as expected, Costello said they’ll face tough competition from teams such as Casey County, Pulaski County and West Jessamine.

“It’s going to be a good, fun regional tournament this year,” he said.

The team and individual regional tournaments will make for busy days at the courts at Millennium Park and John W. Bate Middle School, with eight days of matches scheduled over a 16-day period.

Regional team winners will advance to a 16-team state tournament that will be held a week after the individual state tournament, which will continue to be open to the singles and doubles semi finalists from each region.

Boyle’s boys hope to compete for a title in their regional tournament as well, led by Nos. 1 and 2 singles players Mason Young and Sean Guiney and No. 1 doubles team Caleb Sutton and Jacob King.

“They’ve done well. We got some big wins this season … and had a lot of close matches,” Costello said.