For the third straight summer, a Woodford Junior Team Tennis has advanced to the final four of the Kentucky United States Tennis Association State Tournament.
Woodford sent both an Under-14 and Under-18 team to Owensboro to compete at the state level, with the 18U group advancing out of their group stage and into the semifinals. Coach Phillip Stiefel says he is overjoyed with the effort and success the program has had recently. “Our small community continues to compete and succeed against the rest of state,” said Stiefel, “Both teams are a collection of kids that play for one another and genuinely enjoy being with their teammates. It sounds like bragging, but it’s truly amazing to consider the current group of players and how they compete against teams that are recruited and built to win.”
The path to the semifinals for Woodford’s 18U team ran through a team from Owensboro, Richmond, and two from Louisville. The team won its pool and advanced to the semifinals before falling to the No. 1 overall seed.
It wasn’t always so easy, Stiefel noted. “Only six or seven years ago, a Woodford JTT team couldn’t win a game. It was only four or five years ago that they could even get enough kids to send to a tournament. Now, Woodford is going, competing, knocking teams out and advancing. It’s awesome when the teams from bigger towns and cities begin to despise you, and want you to lose.”
Better than that feeling though Stiefel says is the pride the team has in its community. “We just have a small core of kids that work hard. They stay loyal to their community and proudly represent it. Some of our players have been asked by other club teams to play for them, but they declined and chose to play for Woodford.”