PUEBLO - Julia Pentz went into her No. 2 singles semifinal match undefeated and looking to claim a state championship. But like so many others, she ran into the Cheyenne Mountain buzzsaw.
Pentz took the first set 7-6 (3) from Corey Patton Lossner. But she dropped the last two sets to end any hope for the Cougars to bring home a first-place medal this weekend.
Like Thursday, Niwot fell victim to a three-set match.
"I hate third sets this tournament," Cougars coach Aimee Keronen said.
With good reason. Six of seven winners bracket losses came in the third set this year. It's a painful lesson for a group of young players.
The silver lining, however, is that nearly the entire team will return next year. The team loses only senior Amanda Duquette, who will play for third in No. 2 doubles.
Today may be painful, but this is the kind of lesson that can make these players stronger and better tomorrow.
"It's going to hurt for a long time," Keronen said. "And it's going to stay (in our head). Which is good because we're very young. We lose one player. Everybody else is a freshman, sophomore and junior. So I hope it stings for a long time so that next year they come back with a vengeance."
The hardest part of the lesson for Pentz is that she simply lost to a better player. All semifinal matches started at the same time, but by the time everyone else had finished, she and Patton Lossner were still locked in a heated battle.
But on this day, it just wasn't meant to be for the Niwot junior.
"Obviously I'm super disappointed to be losing but I left it all on the court so there's nothing I can do at that point," Pentz said. "It's a lot of pressure and I don't know... it's just really disappointing when you lose."
To come so close and not reach that goal is a difficult lesson for any high schooler to learn. But the thing about Pentz is that she has the makeup of a competitor. And when competitors fall, they learn how to pick themselves back up.
"She knows," Keronen said. "I don't have to say anything to her. She's been here. It's going to hurt. She came in undefeated and the goal was a title so it's going to sting for a while, but I hope she can bounce back."
Niwot had one other team in the semfinals, but the No. 2 doubles team of Amanda Duquette and Erin O'Neill didn't fare any better than Pentz.
They lost to Palmer Ridge in straight sets.
Keronen had said on Thursday that the goal for the team heading in was a top-three finish in the overall standings.
If Thursday's result had swung the other way, that goal would certainly be in play at the start of Saturday's finals.
But that goal will have to just get pushed to next year. And if they can help it, the Cougars will likely do what they can to avoid split sets.
"Third sets kicked our butts," Pentz said. "It kind of stinks."
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Class 4A state tennis tournament
At City Park in Pueblo
Team scores — Cheyenne Mountain 73, Kent Denver 41, Valor Christian 39, Palmer Ridge 31, Durango 24, Niwot 22, Mullen 13, Peublo West 12, Discovery Canyon 9, Rampart 8...Longmont 1.
No. 1 doubles — Jewel Ng/Tehnley White (Niwot) def. Eva D'Epagnier/Madi Jayne 7-5 6-4.
No. 2 doubles — Tanna Carson/Felicia Archuleta 6-0 6-4 def. Tenley Norton/Jodi Reed (Pine Creek) 6-2 6-3; Amanda Duquette/Erin O'Neill (Niwot) def. Carson/Archuleta 6-4 6-1.
No. 2 singles — Corey Patton Lossner (Cheyenne Mountain) def. Julia Pentz 6-7 6-4 6-4.
No. 1 doubles — Jewel Ng/Tehnley White def. Eva D'Epagnier/Madi Jayne (Longmont) 7-5 6-4; Ng/White def. Maia Morrissey/Mikayla Phelps (Mullen) 6-1 7-5.
No. 2. doubles — Amanda Duquette/Erin O'Neill def. Tanna Carson/Felicia Archuleta (Longmont) 6-4 6-1.