By Nathan Hutchinson
Register Sports Editor
For the third-straight year, Model Laboratory’s Gus Benson has earned a spot in the round of 16 at the KHSAA State Tennis Tournament.
The Patriots’ No. 1 singles player breezed to a pair of easy victories on Thursday at Shillito Park on the opening day of the championships. Benson defeated Jake Estep of Lawrence County, 6-1, 6-0, then beat Conner Maguet of Corbin, 6-1, 6-1 in the second round.
Benson, the tournament’s No. 5 seed, will play Tanner Love of Trinity at 10:30 a.m. today at the University of Kentucky. If he advances, the junior would likely face No. 1 seeded Sean Donohue of St. Xavier in the quarterfinals later in the day.
Berea Community’s top two singles players were not able to come up with first-round victories Thursday at Shillito Park.
Sam Jackson took the first set, but fell to Logan McKinney of Lone Oak, 5-7, 7-5, 10-8. Steven Gadd fell to Bowling Green’s Will True, the No. 5 seed, 6-3, 6-0.
Jackson broke McKinney in the 12th game of the first set to jump out to the lead, but the senior was broken late in the second set, setting up a decisive tiebreaker.
The score was tied 7-7 late in the breaker, but Jackson double faulted and McKinney was three of the final four points of the match.
Jackson qualified for the state tournament in singles three times in his high school career (2010, 2012, 2013).
Benson is also making his third appearance in the state singles tournament. The junior has never made it to the quarterfinals, falling in the round of 16 each of the past two seasons.
Last year, Benson dropped just four games in his first two matches before being eliminated by Lexington Catholic’s Zach Lewis (a Richmond native), 6-1, 6-2.