2021 All-Area Boys Tennis: Johnson, Sizemore ‘just go out and do business’ | Sports

ASHLAND Asked his thoughts on Eddie Sizemore as a tennis coach, Ashland’s Alden Johnson paused and grinned.

“I think he’s a really good coach,” Johnson said. “He tells me what to do and what I’m doing wrong, and he helps me a lot with my game.”

That would surely have been a short list of grievances this season. Johnson only dropped one game before the 16th Region Tournament singles final, which he won on his way to an eventual berth in the state round of 16 in his freshman season.

Johnson, The Daily Independent’s All-Area Player of the Year, qualified for the state tournament in 2019 as an seventh-grader. Then he missed essentially his entire eighth-grade season, which was postponed in its infancy and later canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but that didn’t greatly change Johnson’s outlook entering his freshman campaign, he said.

“It’s gone pretty much the way I thought it would go,” Johnson said at the All-Area photo shoot at the Ashland Tennis Center during the short break between the region and state tournaments, “just kinda ride on through on to State.”

Johnson said the 2021 version of himself was improved over the seventh-grade edition because of confidence gained from that experience, as well as physical development.

“I think my serve has gotten a lot better than what it was seventh grade,” he said, “because I’ve gotten a lot bigger and stronger.”

As for Johnson’s undefeated run – until he met eventual state champion Eli Stephenson of St. Xavier in the Sweet 16?

“I don’t even think about it,” Johnson said. “I just go out and do business.”

Sizemore thinks about it – and tried to put it in historical perspective.

“He is just on pace to go down as one of our best players ever, if not the best player ever,” Sizemore said. “He’s really coming along. He’s working so hard on the court; he’s working just as hard off the court. ”

Sizemore said that showed in Nicholasville against Stephenson.

“I think what we saw, and what (Johnson) saw, was he has the potential to be right there with Eli Stephenson,” Sizemore said. “He gave Eli as good a match as anyone else in the whole tournament, even though it was in the round of 16, and he came away from that match motivated and fired up to get right back to work for next year.”

Ashland, which won its 16th region team title in a span of 20 seasons, placed six players on the team for the fourth consecutive season, in addition to Coach of the Year Sizemore.

That group included Johnson, fellow freshman Ryder Riggs, who was a region singles semifinalist, and all four players who were on the court in the region doubles championship match.

Juniors Ethan Sellars, Cameron Brown and SJ Lycans and senior Cody Camp comprised a sterling doubles grouping, once Sizemore figured out where he wanted them.

“The thing that was challenging this year is, you didn’t have quite as many reps and quite as much practice as years past, just because of the situation,” Sizemore said. “We thought we had the combination right, and it may have worked out like we originally had it, but we ended up going with complementary parts.”

The Tomcats originally paired Sellars with Lycans, and Brown and Camp together, but Ashland tweaked that in what Sizemore called “by far” its latest in-season lineup change under his lead.

It worked. Sellars and Brown knocked off Lycans and Camp in the region final. Both double units went on to win a match at the state tournament.

Sizemore said Ashland’s recent history of region dominance helped set a tone heading back to competition after a year away.

“We definitely feel like we have a culture, and we go in expecting to compete for the regional championship every year,” Sizemore said. “We’re Ashland, and we feel like we’ve got that going on in all our sports. It’s just an exciting time to be a Tomcat right now. ”

Sizemore called his Coach of the Year nod “definitely a group award.” He shared credit with assistant coaches Chris Meinfelter and Dave Johnson – Alden’s father.

Johnson, Sellars and Lycans are among eight repeat All-Area selections. Lycans is a third-time pick, having made it from Lawrence County in 2018 and ’19 before transferring to Ashland.

Russell junior Michael Eastham is a fourth-time honoree. He was the 16th Region Tournament singles runner-up.

Rowan County senior Jordan Justice and Lawrence County senior Brock Kessinger each made their third All-Area team. Kessinger was the 15th Region Tournament singles runner-up and won a match at the state tournament. Justice comprised a region doubles semifinalist team with Vikings senior Collen Tuerk.

Johnson Central junior Hilal Sofyan and Russell senior Mason Quinn are both second-time selections. Sofyan and Golden Eagles senior Nathaniel Narendrakumar won the 15th Region Tournament double title, topping teammates and fellow All-Area honorees Grant Bingham and Brayden Pickle.

Bingham and Pickle, both juniors, won a State match.

Rowan County and Johnson Central each had five All-Area picks.

Eighth-grader Chris Gray, a 16th Region Tournament singles semifinalist, and seniors Ethan Jenkins and Paul Eisenhour, join Justice and Tuerk from the Vikings.

Junior Andrew Brown, a 15th Region Tournament semifinalist in singles play, rounds out the Golden Eagles’ delegation.

Russell senior Ethan Ratcliff and junior Seth Derscha reached the 16th Region Tournament doubles semifinals and Lawrence County junior Will Dillow and freshman Blake Maynard qualified for the 15th Region Tournament doubles final four to get All-Area bids.

Bingham, who has committed to play football at the University of Kentucky as an offensive lineman, is one of four All-Area tennis players who have garnered that recognition in another sport this school year. Lycans was also All-Area in football and soccer. Sellars got that nod in basketball and Maynard earned it in soccer.

Final placement in the region tournament as well as coaches’ selections determined the All-Area Team. The newspaper’s sports department selected the Player and Coach of the Year.

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The Daily Independent All-Area Boys Tennis Team

Grant Bingham (Johnson Central)

Andrew Brown (Johnson Central)

Cameron Brown (Ashland)

Cody Camp (Ashland)

Seth Derscha (Russell)

Will Dillow (Lawrence County)

Michael Eastham (Russell)

Paul Eisenhour (Rowan County)

Chris Gray (Rowan County)

Ethan Jenkins (Rowan County)

Alden Johnson (Ashland)

Jordan Justice (Rowan County)

Brock Kessinger (Lawrence County)

Nathaniel Narendrakumar (Johnson Central)

SJ Lycans (Ashland)

Blake Maynard (Lawrence County)

Brayden Pickle (Johnson Central)

Mason Quinn (Russell)

Ethan Ratcliff (Russell)

Ryder Riggs (Ashland)

Ethan Sellars (Ashland)

Hilal Sofyan (Johnson Central)

Collen Tuerk (Rowan County)

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Alden Johnson (Ashland)

COACH OF THE YEAR

Eddie Sizemore (Ashland)


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