DENVER — As if he wasn't properly motivated already, Peak to Peak sophomore Brett Finan drew a late-season boost from an unlikely source in local rival Matt Chavez.
At the 4A Region 5 tournament, Chavez, a senior at Niwot, defeated Finan to bar him from a regional title. But a week later at the 4A state tournament in Pueblo, it was Finan who got the upper hand in a No. 1 singles semifinal match that vaulted the young player into the championship match.
That's not all.
Ending the season as the 4A No. 1 singles state runner-up and still just a sophomore, Finan is the BoCoPreps.com boys tennis player of the year.
"I had a really good season," Finan said. "I worked hard and I played really well once I got to state. I think I pretty much lived up to my own expectations."
Leading the way all season for the Pumas, who placed sixth in the state as a team, Finan made the most of his second season of prep tennis by tallying his second top five finish. At this year's state tournament, he defeated Chavez 7-6, 4-6, 6-2 in the state semifinals before falling 6-4, 6-0 to Kent Denver's Casey Ross in the state championships match.
Though neither was the final match he played in 2016, Finan credited his late-season matches against Chavez for giving him the edge he needed to break through into the state finals.
"I think losing to him really helped me," Finan said. "He's a good player and I knew I couldn't underestimate him. I also knew I wasn't going to lose to him a second time."
With Finan maturing and establishing himself as a future state title contender, the Pumas appear to set up season or two to come. Freshman Teo Cariov reached the No. 2 singles quarterfinals at state this year and No. 4 doubles pair Dimiti Gourgouris and Grant Lancaster also qualified.
In his third season as head coach, no one is happier that Finan has two more years left than Eric Farran.
"It came down to bold play, hard work and his focus," Farran said. "He put those things together down in Pueblo and capped off the season really well. For a kid to come back from that and to beat the kid who beat him at regionals was an impressive feat."