Shiben, Dodsons win first matches at state tournament

By By Mike Stunson mstunson@paducahsun.com

LEXINGTON -- Past and present First Region tennis champions saw their seasons -- and in some cases, careers -- come to an abrupt end during the opening rounds of Thursday's KHSAA State Championships at Shillito Park.

McCracken County's Vincent Shiben in singles and Mayfield's double tandem of Carter Dodson and Collins Dodson headlined the crop of local boys, as each advanced to the second round before falling short of the Sweet 16.

For Shiben, who in 2015 won the First Region boys singles title while enjoying a long run of success in high school, defeated Reece Halcomb of Whitley County in his first-round match, 6-0, 6-1, to set up a match with No. 5 seed Noah Tapp from Henry Clay.

And while Shiben had the advantage in seven of the games in that second-round match, some unforced errors from Shiben played into Tapp's favor as he took the match, 6-2, 6-2.

"Vincent played the way he needed to play, made some good choices and it was just a few missed points," McCracken head coach Larry Heflin said of the senior. "That's what tennis is -- being able to win the big points -- and in that particular match he missed some big points."

Heflin added that the high wind also played a factor, as Shiben often lives and dies with his serve and volley.

Shiben was the lone Mustang to advance past the first round. Zach Althouse (6-0, 7-6, 1-0 (3) fell to North Oldham's Mitchell Zuberi, the doubles tandem of Cage Newman/Jordan Windhorst fell to No. 4 seed Will Frye/Layne Meek of Ashland Blazer, 6-0, 6-0, and Ty Crabtree and Ethan Walker dropped its match to No. 9 seed Erich Endres/Luke Sheridan-Rabideau of DuPont Manual, 6-0, 6-0.

It may have been a rebuilding year for the Mustang boys, but Heflin spoke of how proud he was they had two doubles teams and two singles representing McCracken at state.

"I told them that 64 players made this tournament and there are tons and tons across the state who never make it, and I want them to be proud they made it," he said. "It's special to earn that right, especially in a down year when they weren't sure if they could."

The Dodson twins of Mayfield, this year's region champions in doubles, found momentum early in a 6-0, 6-4, first-round win over Mike Dewald/Dillon Feltner of Pendleton County. It brought them to the round of 32, where they looked to keep their season alive against the No. 9 seed from Christian Academy-Louisville, Casey Diamond and Jacob McDonnel.

Momentum proved to be much tougher for the twins to capture in that second match, as they couldn't string together points in a 6-4, 6-2 loss.

"You can tell that this CAL group has played together a lot," said Mayfield head coach Mitzi Guhy. "We ran up against someone just a little better than us, and we couldn't get our serving going."

But a second-round appearance and a region championship isn't bad for a pair of seniors who weren't even sure they were going to play tennis this season.

"Two weeks before the start of the season they weren't going to play," Guhy said. "It started with arm twisting, then they decided they were going to have fun, and then it turned in to they were going to win."

The other Mayfield doubles tandem of Michael Day and Tate Puckett fell in the opening round to Henry Clay No. 9 seed Brett Folsom and Phillip Priest, 6-0, 6-3.

Paducah Tilghman's Parker Rowton, this year's regional champion in boys singles, had a tough first-round draw and fell early, 6-4, 6-2, to Covington Latin's Toshi Watanbe. Rowton's seventh-grade brother, Davis Rowton, dropped his first-round match to Covington Catholic No. 9 seed Anthony Bosch, 6-3, 6-2.