Fairview’s Sophie Pearson returns the ball in a No. 3 singles match against Cherry Creek’s Sayuri Garud during the 5A state tournament at the
Fairview's Sophie Pearson returns the ball in a No. 3 singles match against Cherry Creek's Sayuri Garud during the 5A state tournament at the Gates Tennis Center in Denver on Saturday. Pearson's 6-3 victory secured the state title for Fairview High School. (Autumn Parry / Daily Camera)

DENVER — Sophie Pearson was down 3-1 in the third set to Cherry Creek's Sayuri Garud and, for all intents and purposes, it didn't look good.

The Fairview freshman's body language said that she was tired and defeated. Little did she know she held the key to the Knights' state title hopes in her right hand.

A win and Fairview would put a halt to the Bruins' 19-year stranglehold on the team title ... a loss and it would be yet another disappointing runner-up finish.

Pearson needed to find her inner Wonder Woman — the body language her father tells her to maintain even during rough patches of a match.

She did and just in time. Pearson won the final five games of the match, won an individual state title 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 and clinched a team title for the Knights, who mobbed her on court No. 4 at Gates Tennis Center after the win.

"I had no idea," said Pearson, who had no idea the magnitude of her match while it was going on. "It would have made me so much more nervous."

Said a tearful Susan Stensrud, who won her first state title in over 25 years of coaching: "She really hasn't had a lot of tough matches this year to work through and she was just inexperienced in her struggle in tough matches ... so there was no way I was going to tell her."


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Fairview — with championship victories on Saturday from Seraphin Castelino (No. 1 singles), Pearson and the No. 4 doubles team of Clare Lupo and Denali Pinto — finished with 69 points to Cherry Creek's 66.

"I'm just so pleased and I feel like the entire state came out to help us," said Stensrud, whose coaching career began in 1988. "All the other teams in the state had such great doubles play this year, otherwise we could not have won. I feel like it was a multi-team effort."

The big game for Pearson came when she was down 2-3 to the steady Garud, also a freshman. She fought off two break points and eventually held serve to get to 3-3.

Over the final three games of the match she gave up just five points and closed it out with relative ease.

"Susan, she really helps me and tells me not to look like my dog just died, so I tried to walk around more confident after I got a few points back," said Pearson, whose brother Daniel is a standout golfer at Fairview.

Castelino, whose brother Ignatius won a state title in 2014 at No. 1 singles and was on hand to root on his sister, was dominant in her title match against Front Range League foe Ky Ecton of Poudre.

Fairview’s Seraphin Castelino returns the ball to Poudre’s Ky Ecton in a No. 1 singles match during the 5A state tournament at the Gates Tennis
Fairview's Seraphin Castelino returns the ball to Poudre's Ky Ecton in a No. 1 singles match during the 5A state tournament at the Gates Tennis Center in Denver on Saturday. (Autumn Parry / Daily Camera)

She jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the opening set and hung on for 6-4 first set win, watching Ecton commit 18 unforced errors along the way.

It was more of the same in the second set. Castelino, who won a marathon first game of the second set and was up 5-0 against a clearly frustrated Ecton who was only able to salvage one game in the second set.

"I wasn't really focused on her, I was more focused on myself, but I just kept thinking to myself, get this point," said Castelino, whose big backhand down the line produced a number of winners. "I like my backhand a lot and my coaches tell me not to go for that shot, but sometimes I feel like I've got and I hit it."

There will be no more bragging rights for Ignatius at the Castelino dinner table, something he is more than happy to give up.

"It's definitely more enjoyable watching from the sidelines and a lot less stressful, she handled it well and played well," said Ignatius, who walked around court No. 10 with a big smile on his face. "I knew she was going to look at me and if I appeared nervous, then she would be nervous."

Lupo and Pinto made quick work of their opponents from Mountain Vista. They dispatched of Hunter Ernest and Hannah Smith in straight sets, 6-3, 6-2.

Fairview needed every point they could possibly get and they scored a crucial point in a No. 2 doubles third-place match. The team of Angela Cai and Julia Combs beat Bianca Urness and Maddie Darre from Denver East 7-5, 6-3.

Jon Yunt: yuntj@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/JonEYunt

CLASS 5A STATE TOURNAMENT

At Gates Tennis Center

Team scores — Fairview 69, Cherry Creek 66, Mountain Vista 41, Poudre 29, Heritage 19, Fossil Ridge 18, Ponderosa 18, Denver East 15, Chatfield 13, Arapahoe 12, Regis Jesuit 6, Rock Canyon 5, Grandview 3, Ralston Valley 3, Mountain Range 3, Grand Junction 2, Legend 2, Lakewood 2, Fruita Monument 1, Central (G.J.) 1, ThunderRidge 1.

Championship matches

No. 1 singles — Seraphin Castelino, Fairview def. Ky Ecton, Poudre, 6-4, 6-1 .

No. 2 singles — Micha Handler, Cherry Creek def. Alessia Fabiano, Poudre, 6-1, 6-1.

No. 3 singles — Sophie Pearson, Fairview def. Sayuri Garud, Cherry Creek, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

No. 1 doubles — Sydney Waite/Hunter Barker, Ponderosa def. Natalie Sloboth/Elizabeth Palmer, Arapahoe, 6-4, 6-3.

No. 2 doubles — Allison Murphy/Emily Wilkens, Cherry Creek def. Jenna Alvarez/Kendall Moore, Chatfield, 6-1, 7-5.

No. 3 doubles — Erinn Hogan/Lindsey Noble, Fossil Ridge def. Kate Wulf/Kelley Wulf, Denver East, 6-4, 6-4.

No. 4 doubles — Clare Lupo/Denali Pinto, Fairview def. Hunter Ernest/Hannah Smith, Mountain Vista, 6-3, 6-2.

Third-place matches

No. 1 singles — Gloria Son, Cherry Creek def. Casey Zhong, Mountain Vista, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.

No. 2 singles — Kendra Lavallee, Mountain Vista def. Natalie Munson, Fairview, 7-5, 6-0.

No. 3 singles — Madi Allen, Mountain Vista def. Lauren Thomas, Heritage, 6-3, 6-2.

No. 1 doubles — Phoebe Mackenzie/Hanna Fernley, Cherry Creek def. Carolyn Roberts/Ellie Savage, Fairview, 7-6 (3), 6-2.

No. 2 doubles — Angie Cai/Julia Combs, Fairview def. Bianca Urness/Maddie Darre, Denver East, 7-5, 6-3.

No. 3 doubles — Francesca Bellibi/Mackenzy Pedrie, Regis Jesuit def. Olivia Woods/Libby Stroup, Heritage, 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-3.

No. 4 doubles — Claire Steffe/Sara Stavaski, Rocky Canyon def. Wendy Yan/Grace Shepard, Cherry Creek, 6-2, 3-6, 6-4.