LONGMONT — Niwot's Taylor Thulson reached the championship semifinals as a sophomore and ended up placing third in the No. 2 singles bracket at last year's Class 4A state tournament.
Now a junior, some things have changed for Thulson while others have remained the status quo. She's playing No. 1 singles this time around, so the difficulty is ratcheted up a notch. But she's still a singles player for Niwot, one of the state's best programs each season, so the goal of reaching the podium at state is the same as it always is.
Thulson took the first big step in her No. 1 singles state podium bid by winning the 4A Region 5 title on Thursday at the Longmont Recreation Center courts. She defeated Longmont's Rebecca Pavot, 6-2, 6-2 in the championship match.
"I came in confident because I needed to so I could put out my best A-game for the match," said Thulson, who is 11-3 on the season. "I had a really tough match against her during the season so I knew I had to come out focused if I wanted to get to state again. I felt like I played well and hit most of the shots I wanted to.
"My goal is to place at state this year, which I know is going to be tougher because I'm at one singles. As long as I can get a good draw and play the best I can, then I think I can do it."
Scoring 84 team points, the Niwot Cougars swept the championship matches and ran away with the regional team title. Facing the Cougars in each of the title matches were Longmont Trojans players.
For the Trojans, whose singles players consist of two freshmen and a sophomore, challenging for the team title and sending seven ladder spots to state despite returning zero state qualifiers at the beginning of the season was a success. They scored 56 team points.
"We lost to Niwot during the year, but at least four of the matches were three setters so it was pretty close," first year Trojans coach Gale Howard said. "Their singles just played better than we did today, but that's OK because we're so young. We're going to state in several doubles, too, so it was a pretty good day."
Silver Creek was third in the team scoring with 20 team points. Centaurus was fourth with five points and Skyline tied Northridge for fifth with three.
All contested challenge matches for state berths were either won by the defending side or called early because players had to leave to fulfill scholastic testing commitments.
Class 4A Region 5 Tournament
At Longmont Recreation Center
Team scores — Niwot 84, Longmont 56, Silver Creek 20, Centaurus 5, Skyline 3, Northridge 3.
Singles — 1. Taylor Thulson, Niwot, def. Rebecca Pavot, Longmont, 6-2, 6-2; 2. Julia Pentz, Niwot, def. Amber Weston, Longmont, 6-1, 6-0; 3. Rachel Drake, Niwot, def. Taylor Merz, Longmont, 6-1, 6-0.
Doubles — 1. Jewel Ng/Tehnley White, Niwot, def. Eva D'Epangier/Madi Jayne, Longmont, 6-3, 6-0; 2. Amanda Duquette/Erin O'Neill, Niwot, def. Tanna Carson/Felecia Archuleta, Longmont, 7-6, 6-4; 3. Lily Sieben/Avery O'Neill, Niwot, def. Andi Aker/Trista Woelfle, Longmont, 6-2, 6-1; 4. Maedee Trank-Greene/Yui Ishikawa, Niwot, def. Jesse Bartel/Yasmine Culbertson, Longmont, 6-2, 6-0.