Before the girls tennis season began, Sophie Pearson was dealing with some nerves. For a program the caliber of Fairview, with a rich tradition on the courts, the freshman's anxiety might have been understandable.
But, with the way Pearson performed Wednesday at the Front Range League Championships at her home courts, winning a league title at No. 3 singles over a senior from Poudre in three sets, those apprehensions can be put to bed. Not only is Pearson now a conference champion, but she also boasts an unblemished 13-0 record.
"It's nice to hear, because I had big shoes to fill," Pearson said after defeating Koy Ecton 6-0, 3-6, 6-1.
With Tuesday's weather forcing multiple matches to be played on Wednesday, rather than just the typical championship duals in the morning, Fairview's poise and depth throughout the grueling day led to a team title for the second consecutive season with 93 points, well clear of both Fossil Ridge (53) and Poudre (50). The Knights have now won six of the past eight Front Range crowns, with Fossil Ridge claiming the other two in 2013 and 2014.
Fairview reached all seven championship finals, with victories by Pearson, Angela Cai and Julia Combs at No. 2 doubles and Clare Lupo and Denali Pinto at No. 4 doubles.
"I like this two-day tournament, because we're always together the whole time," veteran Fairview coach Susan Stensrud said. "The focus on the team and the team points makes it a really cohesive event."
For a program that had to replace six of 11 members of last year's lineup, a group that finished second in Class 5A with the No. 1 singles state champion in Amber Shen, the Knights reloaded and dominated again to the tune of an 11-0 dual record with a combined 58-4 record for the seven spots in this year's lineup during the regular season. For the most part, that carried over to the league meet, even while facing some of Colorado's stiffest competition.
"It's incredibly competitive," Stensrud said. "It gets kids ready for the state tournament. The best teams in the state are here, the best singles players in the state are here. Four of the top No. 1 singles players are here."
Cai and Combs remained undefeated on the season at 13-0, while Seraphin Castelino (13-1), a freshman stepping into Shen's No. 1 singles spot, played well throughout the day but eventually succumbed in three sets to Mountain Range senior Kristen Kirby in the finals.
A team effort paid off with a huge margin of victory and, in some ways, the depth of Fairview can be attributed to a policy Stensrud instilled.
"We run a no-cut program," the 12th-year coach of the Knights said. "To me, it reinforces that not cutting kids doesn't mean you can't have a competitive program. I also like it, because we had two league champs today, Clare Lupo and Julia Combs, who made varsity for the first time as seniors. I'm especially excited for them."
"We work really hard in practice and that shows when you go onto the court," Pearson added. "Being undefeated as a team is really a privilege."
Broomfield's No. 2 doubles tandem of Allyson Horvath and Sydney Ho also reached the championship finals while helping the Eagles to a fifth place team finish. Boulder and Monarch placed sixth and seventh, respectively.
Front Range League Championships
Team scores — Fairview 93, Fossil Ridge 53, Poudre 50, Mountain Range 22, Broomfield 18, Boulder 7, Monarch 6, Fort Collins 6, Rocky Mountain 4, Loveland 3, Greeley West 3, Legacy 2, Horizon 0.
Singles — 1. Kristen Kirby, Mountain Range, def. Seraphin Castelino, Fairview, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (3); 2. Alessia Fabiano, Poudre, def. Natalie Munson, Fairview, 6-0, 6-3; 3. Sophie Pearson, Fairview, def. Koy Ecton, Poudre, 6-0, 3-6, 6-1.
Doubles — 1. Fossil Ridge, def. Carolyn Roberts/Ellie Savage, Fairview, 6-4, 6-3; 2. Angela Cai/Julia Combs, Fairview, def. Allyson Horvath/Sydney Ho, Broomfield, 6-3, 7-5; 3. Fossil Ridge, def. Kylie Feliciano/Haley Weinstein, 6-3, 6-2; 4. Clare Lupo/Denali Pinto, Fairview, def. Fossil Ridge, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5.