LONGMONT — Once the postseason began last season, Neil Wilcox had a pretty rough go of things primarily based on who he had to play at regionals.
As a freshman last fall, the Niwot tennis player faced eventual Class 4A No. 1 singles state champion Brett Finan of Peak to Peak in the finals at regionals. Wilcox still made it to the state tournament, but losing to Finan seeded him in a tough spot in the bracket and he fell to Discovery Canyon's Nick Lorenz in the second round.
Knowing how important seeding can be once the state tournament rolls around, and that he would not have to face Finan at regionals this year, Wilcox made sure to win this year's Region 5 tournament. With a 6-0, 6-4 victory over Longmont's Brenden Arndt on Thursday at Longmont Recreation Center, Wilcox advanced to the state tournament yet again as a sophomore — but this time he will arrive at Pueblo City Park as one of the top seeds in the bracket.
"I had a good match and my opponent played really well," Wilcox said. "Last year I lost to Brett Finan in the finals and I had a tough draw at state. I had to play Lorenz in the second round. This year I should get a better draw and hopefully I can go a lot further."
Led by Wilcox, the Niwot team swept all seven finals matches in straight sets. No. 2 singles player Riley Black had the closest match of them all, defeating Longmont's Henry Matheson 7-6, 6-2 in the finals.
After placing fourth last year and watching their girls team win the team championship in the spring, the Cougars will take a full team to the state tournament with the goal of winning it all next Thursday through Saturday.
"Everyone won so that's good," Wilcox said. "I think we have a really good shot at winning state this year. We're all more confident going in and we think that we can win instead of being the underdogs."
Finishing runners-up to Niwot in six of the seven finals matches on Thursday the Longmont Trojans took second place in the Region 5 team competition. The Trojans' No. 4 doubles team also won a playback match to secure a berth to the state tournament, giving the Trojans six out of seven ladder spots with which to score at state next week.
"You know, we played really well as a team to get to the finals," Merz said. "We beat some really good players to get there and a lot of our players had really good matches in the finals. Our No. 4 doubles had a great match to qualify and we're hoping to get top five at state and get a couple kids on the podium."
4A Region 5 tournament
At Longmont Recreation Center
Singles — 1. Neil Wilcox, Niwot, def. Brenden Arndt, Longmont, 6-0, 6-4; 2. Riley Black, Niwot, def. Henry Matheson, Longmont, 7-6, 6-2; 3. Ben Bicknell, Niwot, def. Danny O'Brien, 6-1, 6-3.
Doubles — 1. Sam Keronen/Manas Saini, Niwot, def. Hunter Rosebrough/Nash Philips, 6-2, 6-1; 2. Anton Lavrouk/Riley Mulshine, Niwot, def. Evan Kettelapper/Dick Montez, Centaurus, 6-0, 6-0; 3. Sam Bickham/Ivan Calderon, Niwot, def. Oliver Seamons/Connor Corcoran, Longmont, 6-2, 6-1; 4. Xavier Moy/Jon Lee, Niwot, def. Jimmy McConahy/Cory Byrne, 6-0, 6-4.