BOULDER — In his Class 5A state tournament championship match debut, Boulder sophomore Kap Smith not only won his first No. 1 singles state title but also made the match one to remember.
Still just a sophomore, Smith announced his arrival as a perennial title contender with a flare all his own.
Despite losing the first set and trailing 4-0 in the second, Smith came back to defeat Cherry Creek's Ryan James, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4. Not only is Smith officially the best tennis player in 5A, he is the BoCoPreps.com Boys Tennis Player of the Year.
"It was huge for my confidence," Smith said. "It just gives me the confidence to do bigger and better things in the future. I added more weapons this season. My serve got bigger and my forehand got a lot stronger. I was pretty nervous for the tournament. I was really nervous in the final and I got off to a bad start but I got it all back at the right time."
Before the finals, Smith rolled through the No. 1 singles bracket without dropping a set. He finished the season with an 18-1 record, with his only loss coming against Kent Denver's Casey Ross in the finals of the Cherry Creek Invitational. Ross went on to win the 4A No. 1 singles championship.
With Smith at the helm, and senior teammate Jackson Hawk winning the No. 2 singles title, the Boulder Panthers finished fifth in the state tournament team scoring. For a team that stranded all three singles players in the semifinals last year, Smith said two titles and a top-five team finish made his sophomore campaign a truly complete experience.
"It was really fun," Smith said. "The team was great and our coach did a great job in his first year with Boulder High."
Like most high-level athletes, Smith battled injury all season and even at the state tournament, where he won the championship match with a bloody nose and two ailing knees. First-year head coach Doug Kazarosian said he couldn't help but marvel at his young ace's ability to overcome all obstacles.
"The most special thing for Kap in winning the 5A championship was first off, the fashion in which he did it," Kazarosian said. "In the final, he came back from an incredible deficit, he was injured, his nose was bleeding and he got a point penalty. Overcoming a massive lead against an incredible opponent is truly a testament to his mental fortitude and his ability to play incredible tennis when it's necessary."