BOULDER — Even as Eli Winegardner struggled with a cold for the better part of the week, he remained determined to be ready in time to compete against the state’s premiere tennis program.
Winegardner’s thrilling win on Wednesday undoubtedly made the Fairview senior feel much better. Winegardner prevailed in an epic battle against Cherry Creek’s No. 1 singles player, Dan Steinhauser, winning a third-set tiebreaker in a match that lasted about 2 hours, 45 minutes.
Although Winegardner’s 6-1, 3-6, 7-6(5) win was not enough to lift the Knights to victory — the Bruins secured the dual meet victory 4-3 — Fairview acquitted itself well against a club that has won 10 of the past 11 Class 5A state titles.
“I’ve been sick the last couple days, so it was great for me to pull it out,” Winegardner said. “I lost a couple close ones (recently) so this is good to get over that hill. Since I’ve been sick I was trying to conserve my energy and just let him make errors.”
While Cherry Creek won the meet, Fairview won the battles at each of the top positions. The Knights’ No. 2 singles player Ignatius Castelino supported Winegardner’s victory with a straight-set win, defeating the Bruins’ Connor McPherson 7-5, 6-2. The Knights’ No. 1 doubles team of Kevin Chen and Tommy Mason also posted an impressive win, besting the Cherry Creek duo of Jace Blackburn and Hans Bergal 7-5, 6-3.
“Everyone competed really well today,” Fairview coach Chad Tsuda said. “It’s definitely moving forward for us midway through the season. We’re definitely making positive strides, but we still need to make more. I’m glad we’re not peaking right now. We’ll be ready (for regionals).”
Winegardner dominated the first set against Steinhauser, the 2011 state champion at No. 3 singles, but ran into trouble in the second set after suddenly becoming more error-prone.
Winegardner grew more conservative during the third set, in part to conserve his cold-addled strength but also to force the more emotional and demonstrative Steinhauser into more mistakes. The strategy paid off as Winegardner secured the victory in the tiebreaker.
“Eli being our leader, and competing the way he did, that really shows something,” Tsuda said. “He said he was going to come out and beat this team, and I think he did a great job today.”
Follow Pat Rooney on Twitter: @prooney07
Cherry Creek 4, Fairview 3
At Fairview H.S.
Singles — 1. Eli Winegardner, Fairview, def. Dan Steinhauser, 6-1, 3-6, 7-6(5); 2. Ignatius Castellino, Fairview, def. 7-5, 6-2; 3. Will Roh, Cherry Creek, def. Alec Leddon, 6-2, 6-2.
Doubles — 1. Kevin Chen/Tommy Mason, Fairview, def. Jace Blackburn/Hans Bergal, 7-5, 6-2; 2. Connor Petrov/Jake Miller, Cherry Creek, def. Connor Corrigan/Andrew Pollack, 6-2, 6-2; 3. Danny Kapriellian/Noah Reiss, Cherry Creek, def. 2-6, 6-3, 6-2; 4. Gifford Mellick/Harshil Dwived, Cherry Creek, def. Max Petrak/Kamran Shahbaz 3-6, 6-1, 7-6(5).