Covington Latin senior Sara Watanabe lost just two games on the way to last year’s girls Ninth Region singles tennis title.
So it makes sense that she’s the top seed in this year’s regional tournament that begins Monday at Boone Woods Park near Burlington.
As it did in 2021, Watanabe’s 2022 run ended in the state semifinals. (She lost to Sacred Heart’s Lila Jane Shallcross, 3-6, 6-4, 1-0 (10-7) last year.) Her 2023 season has been strong – she’s second in the U.S. Tennis Association’s Ohio Valley 16’s rankings and third in the 18’s.
“I would say right now I’ve adapted my game to be an all-around player,” Watanabe said. “I can stay back and be consistent or dictate the point really well and go on the offense … I can come to the net really early on in the point.”
Watanabe enjoys the USTA matches over high school.
“I think I enjoy more ‘cause 75% of my tennis career has revolved around (USTA),” she said.
Watanabe is 11-4 with two walkovers since January (and 49-16 for her career), and she beat regional 2-seed Tapanee Boonyawat of Dixie Heights, 7-5, 6-3, March 30.
After high school, Watanabe plans to walk on at the University of Cincinnati. She chose the Bearcats because she wanted to stay close to home (she lives in Edgewood) and that UC joins the Big XII this year.
Ryle sophomore Kyah Andros is the 3-seed. Rounding out the top eight are Cooper’s Kayla Johnson, Notre Dame’s Lucy Bailey, Anne Marie Richmond of Beechwood, Kate Carris of Highlands and Paige Arthur of St. Henry.
Beechwood’s Sadie Jones and Haley King are the top seeds in girls doubles. Hailey Fullenkamp and Taylor Meenach of Notre Dame are the second seeds. Conner’s Natalie Elleman and Allyse Rassenfoss are third, and Ryle’s Avery Love and Lacey Guard are fourth.
Notre Dame’s Sam Spellman and Clare Shay are fifth. Two Villa Madonna duos, Madeline Mitchell and Julia Lyons and Bria Patel and Isabella McElwee, are sixth and seventh, respectively, and Newport Central Catholic’s Delaney Green and Eva Greene are eighth.
CovCath grabs top boys seeds
The Ninth Region boys tournament is scheduled to start Saturday at Covington Catholic. CovCath junior Brady Hussey missed much of the season with a right ankle injury, which didn’t keep him from receiving the Ninth Region boys top singles seed.
Hussey, the son of Notre Dame legend Kara Molony-Hussey and Bobby Hussey, is the two-time defending regional champion. He hurt his ankle during basketball season.
“He injured some ligaments in his ankle, and we only got him back about a week and a half ago,” Colonels coach Al Hertsenberg said. “ … Everybody up here knows he’s on a different level.”
Hertsenberg, who completes his 33rd season at CovCath, said the right-handed Hussey hits a heavy ball with enough pace to take you off the court and maybe down Dixie Highway.
“Brady is an attacking player,” Hertsenberg said. “… He’s got lots of weapons, so he can come up to the net and finish. He can use different serves.”
Tennis is in Hussey’s blood, and not just because of his mom. Older brother Austin won the KHSAA singles championship in 2013 and was the runner-up in 2014 and a semifinalist in 2015, and aunt Molly Molony and Jackie Vilines won the doubles title in 2001.
Beechwood’s Neel Reddy is the second seed, CovCath’s Will Kreutzjans is the third seed. St. Henry’s Carson Kute is fourth, and Cooper’s Matthew Zureick, Villa Madonna’s Jacob Kramer, St. Henry’s Wade Hammond and Holy Cross’ Austin Arlinghaus are tied for fifth.
Two more Colonels, Alex Yeager and Kalei Christensen, are the top seed in boys doubles.
Hertsenberg said Yeager and Christensen played together for Holy Cross as eighth-graders.
“This year they didn’t play together for us very much because we had Brady injured,” Hertsenberg said. “I needed to split those guys up to play matches.”
Villa Madonna’s Shayaan Ahmad and Joey Case are seeded second. John Laskey and Eli Back of Highlands are third, Daniel Kyntchev and Nathan Warner are fourth, and four duos – Matthew Marlett and Navneenth Selvaraju of Ryle, Griffen Derry and Luke McElhaney of Dixie Heights, Benjamin Schuh and Nate Sorrentino of Highlands and Andrew Goodwin and Alex Hammond of St. Henry – share the fifth spot.
Two more tournaments begin Monday – the Eighth Region, which includes Simon Kenton and Walton-Verona, is at Collins High School in Shelbyville; and the 10th Region, where Campbell County, Bishop Brossart, Scott and Calvary Christian will be, takes place at George Rogers Clark in Winchester.