DENVER -- Euphoria, excitement, disbelief -- these are all emotions likely to wash over a state champion. But Kevin Chen and Tommy Mason's Class 5A state tennis title elicited a much different response.
Fairview's No. 1 doubles team wallowed in a sense of relief after a masterful straight-set victory Saturday at the Gates Tennis Center. Rightfully so, considering the senior and sophomore had done their fair share of flirting with the top of the state in previous seasons, only to come up short of the title.
Chen collected a third and a fourth place in his three previous state tournaments, while Mason made it to the finals in 2011 only to finish as a runner-up. The championship washed all those near misses away in the stroke of a racket.
"It was like I could finally take a deep breath," Chen said.
The partners knocked off Hans Bergal and Jace Blackburn 6-2, 6-4 to claim their first state championship. It was the third time Chen and Mason had beaten the Cherry Creek players this season. And despite the Bruins proving resilient in the second set, Mason believed he and his partner had locked up their title earlier in the tournament.
"We knew we had already faced one of the best team in state in Legacy (in the semifinals)," he said. "Having beat them, we came into today energized and fired up to win."
Fairview's No. 1 doubles victory was the first of the day, setting a positive note in the Knight's tight team race with Cherry Creek. But Fairview's earlier excitement in besting the team that has won 37 of the past 40 championships soon soured.
Outside of Connor Corrigan and Andrew Pollack winning their third-place match at No. 2 doubles, the Knights did not collect another victory on the day. The fall in the team's final four championship finals earned Fairview runner-up status for a second year in a row, but allowed Cherry Creek to run away with its 38th championship.
"They have some of the toughest players in the state," Fairview coach Chad Tsuda said. "It showed today why Creek has been so dominant."
The Knights had a tight line to walk to a championship in the first place. With the Bruins leading by 6 points at the end of Friday's play, Fairview had to win four matches to guarantee itself a share of the title.
Adding to the pressure, all of the team's finals matches were against Cherry Creek. And outside of the Knights' No. 1 doubles team, only one other position still playing Saturday -- No. 2 singles Ignatius Castelino -- had beaten its Cherry Creek counterpart this season. This history, from Tsuda's perspective, might have weighed on his players. Even with his team's history with Cherry Creek, the coach far from wrote any of the matches off.
"I thought everyone had a shot at their position, it just depended who came out with the right attitude," Tsuda said.
The match that shocked Tsuda -- along with a better part of the state tournament crowd -- was Castelino's. The sophomore's undefeated run through the position this season came to an end at the hands of a player he had beaten twice before.
Cherry Creek's Connor McPherson built up an early head of steam in the match and did not let off the throttle until he had recorded a 6-3, 6-2 win. The finish as runner-up for a second year visibly shook Castelino, a player known for his cool court demeanor. From what Tsuda saw courtside, the match was a near role reversal from the players' previous meetings.
"Today Connor was willing to hit out and be aggressive and went after the points," the coach said. "Ignatius was just a little more tentative. The last time they played, he was more of the aggressor."
Despite missing more individual titles and the team championships, the Knights saw bright points in the tournament finish. Mason, for one, believes his team gained valuable experience that will be put to good use by the six returning state qualifiers.
"It was tough, we had a shot at it," he said. "But there are more years ahead for us."
Follow Elwood on Twitter @ElwoodKShelton.
CLASS 5A STATE TENNIS TOURNAMENT
At Gates Tennis Center.
Cherry Creek 80 Fairview 64 Arapahoe 34 Grand Junction 27 Highlands Ranch 29 Regis Jesuit 17 Mountain Vista 13 Denver East 14 Loveland 10 Fossil Ridge 8 Legacy 9 Boulder 6 Columbine 6 Ft. Collins 3 Monarch 3 Chatfield 2 Fruit Monument 1 Legend 1 Rock Canyon 1 All other teams 0.
Singles -- 1. Hayden Sabatka, Highlands Ranch, def. Spencerr Weinberg, Grand Junction, 7-6 (5), 6-3; 2. Connor McPherson, Cherry Creek, def. Ignatius Castelino, Fairview, 6-3, 6-2; 3. Will Ro, Cherry Creek, def. Alec Leddon, Fairview, 6-1, 6-4.
Doubles -- 1. Kevin Chen/Tommy Mason, Fairview, def. Hans Bergal/Jace Blackburn, Cherry Creek, 6-2, 6-4; 2. Connor Petrou/Jake Miller, Cherry Creek, def. Chad Curd/Michael Vartuli, Arapahoe, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4; 3. Dan Kapriellian/Noah Reiss, Cherry Creek, def. Ben Krahenbuhl/Nick Blanco, Fairview, 6-0, 6-2; 4. Gifford Mellick/Harshil Dwivedi, Cherry Creek, def. Kamran Shabaz/Max Petrak, Fairview, 6-4, 6-4.
Singles -- 1. Matt Sayre, Denver East, def. Joey Diaz, Loveland, 6-1, 6-3; 2. Chanon Penvari, Arapahoe, def. Nick Farmen, Regis, 6-2, 6-1; 3. Ryker Brown, Highlands Ranch, def. Thomas Van De Pas, Mountain Vista, 7-5, 6-3.
Doubles -- 1. David Rosencrans/Mike Rosencrans, Legacy, def. Calvin Buechler/Andy Leach, Columbine, 6-4, 6-1; 2. Connor Corrigan/Andrew Pollack, Fairview, def. Vamsi Selthilvel/Alex Boyarko, Mountain Vista, 6-2, 6-3; 3. Jake Becker/Dylan Panis, Arapahoe, def. Kevin Schultz/Trevor Swanborn, Fossil Ridge, 6-4, 6-4; 4. Noah Warren/Joe Robertson, Regis, def. Matthew Ness/Charlie Ruckman, Grand Junction, 6-4, 6-3.