LAFAYETTE -- When assessing the quality of a tennis tournament, a reliable measuring stick is the amount of girls who also figure to be competing at the state tournament.

By that criteria, the 2012 version of the Centaurus Invitational was the most competitive yet.

Now in its fourth season, the two-day tournament attracted several prominent squads and standout individuals. The Warriors managed to make a little noise of their own too, finishing fourth in the eight-team event.

"Every year when I put this on, I try to make it as difficult as I can as far as the teams that are involved," Centaurus coach C.J. Richardson said. "As long as we finish somewhere around the middle of the pack, I'm pretty happy."

Talented St. Mary's Academy ran away with the team title and potent Valor Christian and Palmer Ridge followed.

As for Centaurus, the Warriors placed three on the podium Saturday. Freshman No. 2 singles standout Annie Fernandez and the No. 2 doubles team of Kate Minnihan and Molly Lord finished second while No. 3 singles player Erica Offerle took third.

"I'm happy about it because there are a lot of tough teams here," said Fernandez, who lost her title match to St. Mary's Academy's Loren Koszowski 6-3, 6-0. "She was a good opponent, too. Her serve was amazing."

Evidence of the talent level was provided in the No. 1 singles final, where rocket-racketed Alex Middleton of Valor Christian defeated Alex Weil of St. Mary's Academy 6-3, 1-6, 6-4. Both figure to advance deep into the Class 4A state meet in Pueblo next month.

St. Mary's Academy (59 team points) earned four first-place trips to the podium and recorded two second-place finishes. Valor edged Palmer Ridge 41-40 for second overall.

Minnihan and Lord won the first set in the No. 2 doubles final against Palmer Ridge's Emily Parker and Kristina Pegues, but lost 1-6, 6-2, 6-2. Given the circumstances, the Centaurus tandem was happy with second place.

"This is one of my first times really playing doubles, and just how comfortable Kate and I were was really nice," Lord said. "It was a good experience and, hey, we made it to the championship against some pretty good teams."

Alexander Dawson managed a fifth-place finish, while Caroline Hobbs earned the only trip to the podium for the Mustangs. She finished third in No. 1 singles.

"Moving my feet and keeping top-spin on the ball was definitely the key," Hobbs said of her 6-2, 6-1 win against Shannon Babcock of Palmer Ridge in the third-place match. "With the wind and my three matches (Friday), I came in a little tired. We had some amazing rallies."

Two Alexander Dawson doubles teams advanced to the third-place match, but each had to settle for fourth place. The No. 1 doubles tandem of Fiona Bell and Jillian Howarth lost 6-3, 1-6, 10-7 to Kaylee Pott and Annie Hertel of Valor Christian.

The No. 4 doubles team of Lulu McRoberts and Faith Rankin fell 6-2, 6-1 to the Palmer Ridge tandem of Shale Perconti and Julia Tremaroli.

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Centaurus Invitational

At Centaurus H.S.

Team scores -- St. Mary's Academy 59, Valor Christian 41, Palmer Ridge 40, Centaurus 23, Alexander Dawson 14, Wheat Ridge 7, Sterling 5, Lutheran 0.


CHAMPIONSHIP MATCHES

Singles -- 1. Alex Middleton, Valor Christian, def. Alex Weil, St. Mary's Academy, 6-3, 1-6, 6-4; 2. Loren Koszowski, St. Mary's Academy, def. Annie Fernandez, Centaurus, 6-3, 6-0; 3. Claire Chrisman, St. Mary's Academy, def. Diane Babcock, Palmer Ridge, 6-1, 6-1.

Doubles -- 1. Elaina Villanueva/Rachel Haas, St. Mary's Academy def. Kirby Kerr/Megan Wrobel, Palmer Ridge, 6-4, 6-0; 2. Emily Parker/Kristina Pegues, Palmer Ridge, def. Kate Minnihan/Molly Lord, Centaurus, 1-6, 6-2, 6-2; 3. Faith Mason/Kathryn Armstrong, Valor Christian, def. Andrea Lorenz/Laura Genty, St. Mary's Academy, 6-2, 6-2; 4. Jigyasa Sharma/Julia Chowdhury, St. Mary's Academy def. Michaela Dunn/Megan Davis, Valor Christian, 6-3, 6-2.


THIRD-PLACE MATCHES

Singles -- 1. Caroline Hobbs, Alexander Dawson, def. Shannon Babcock, Palmer Ridge, 6-2, 6-1; 2. Brooke Williams, Valor Christian, def. Emily Curran, Palmer Ridge, 6-1, 6-0; 3. Erica Offerle, Centaurus, def. Bailey Sorenson, Sterling, 7-5, 6-1.

Doubles -- 1. Kaylee Pott/Annie Hertel, Valor Christian, def. Fiona Bell/Jillian Howarth, Alexander Dawson, 6-3, 1-6, 10-7; 2. Sarah Horan/Nicole Schlatter, St. Mary's Academy, def. Natalie Borner/Meghan McDuff, Valor Christian, 2-6, 6-2, 10-5; 3. Kaitel Kron/Hannah Brachfeld, Palmer Ridge, def. Taryn Wilson/Darian Trengove, Wheat Ridge, 6-1, 6-3; 4. Shale Perconti/Julia Tremaroli, Palmer Ridge, def. Lulu McRoberts/Faith Rankin, Alexander Dawson, 6-2, 6-1.