LONGMONT — The girls tennis team at Longmont High qualified three underclassmen singles players to lead its lineup to state last spring, positioning itself as a club with immense potential for future success.
The Trojans' trio - sophomore No. 1 Rebecca Pavot, sophomore No. 2 Amber Weston and junior No. 3 Taylor Merz - learned a great deal from their experience on Class 4A's biggest stage in 2017 and will be back in the fold next weekend at Pueblo City Park. Last year was a breakthrough season for the development of Longmont's young core, enriching the program's on-court capability and big-tournament savvy.
Now turning their attention to winning some matches at state, the Trojans' top players that put them on the map as freshmen and sophomores last season are ready to prove that their future success may arrive sooner than some may think.
"We all made it to the finals at regionals and we're all playing really well, on our A-game," Pavot said. "As a team, we've improved a lot since the season first began. Personally, I feel like I've just gotten a lot better at high school tennis and knowing what to expect. There was a big jump from freshman to sophomore year because I know what to expect now."
All seven of the Trojans' ladder spots finished runners-up to Niwot players at Friday's 4A Region 5 tournament. The top two finishers in each division qualify for state. Per the regional state-qualifying rules, however, Pavot and Weston had to play matches on Saturday morning to defend their state berths because they did not face the third-place finishers in their respective brackets during Friday's weather-condensed tournament. Pavot defeated Silver Creek's Jenna Nielson, 6-1, 6-0, and Weston defeated Northridge's Mackenzie Bush, 6-1, 6-0, and each punched her return ticket to the state championships.
"Last year, I think I went 7-5 and this year I'm 9-1 so we've all made big improvements," Weston said. "Last year, we just made it to state. This year, we want to place. It's not going to be easy but I think we can do it."
The addition of players like Weston, who had already been playing tennis for 10 years by the time she reached high school, has deepened the Trojans' talent pool. But the team's improvement hasn't only happened at the top of its lineup. The emergence of several multi-sport athletes developing their tennis skill has been equally important in terms of its team-wide success, particularly in the doubles spots.
"A lot of us do multiple sports and we have a lot of athletic girls but we've also all gotten a lot better at tennis this season," Merz said. "We really feel like whenever we go out to play now, we're out there to win. For me, I got really sick right before state last season and I wasn't able to play as well as I could. I'm really excited to get another shot at it and make it farther this year. All of us are."
The Trojans went 9-1 in duals this season, losing only to perennial top-10 finisher Niwot. The Trojans also finished runners-up to Niwot in the team scoring at regionals.
Also on Saturday, Longmont's No. 3 doubles pair of Anna McConahy and Maya Givens won 6-4, 6-2 over Skyline's Kayla Dominguez and Ashley Kastler to defend their own state berth. The win cemented that the Trojans would send all seven of their lineup spots to the state tournament for the second straight year.
At state last season, the Trojans scored one team point and finished in a six-way tie for 17th place in the field of 28 teams. Tanna Carson and Felicia Archuleta were the only Trojans to win a match and accounted for the Trojans' lone team point, winning a No. 2 doubles first-round playback against Pine Creek's duo on the second day. With a full lineup once again, the Trojans intend to improve on last year's showing.
That means more wins than just one. And that starts at the top with Pavot, Weston and Merz.
"Our singles players make everybody better," Longmont head coach Michael Merz said. "Filling those one, two and three spots just strengthens the whole squad and gives the girls more confidence. It's really incredible to watch those girls be leaders in that sense.
"We took everybody to state last year and to have everybody go back again just proves that we're a good team. We think we can do some damage. We've got some young girls who are going to bring more tennis into our program and help give us some rep and things like that. So we have lots of confidence going into state."