PUEBLO — Closing his year-long hunt for redemption, Harrison Lang finally caught up to the one thing that could culminate his prep career the only way he wanted.
At Pueblo City Park on Saturday, the Niwot senior beat Kent Denver’s David Mitchell 6-4, 6-2 to win the 4A No. 1 singles state title. In simultaneous victory and vengeance, Lang returned to the 4A pinnacle where he sat as a sophomore and rid himself of the regret that plagued him since Mitchell felled him in the 2011 finals.
“That was very important because he beat me last year and we go back-and-forth in all the national tournaments,” Lang said. “He got me last time so I just didn’t want that to happen again. Being my senior year, going out like that, I couldn’t ask for it any other way.”
Switching quickly from champion to challenger last year, Lang had plenty of time to think about last year’s loss to Mitchell. He used that time to formulate a game plan, knowing he would almost certainly face the Sun Devils sophomore in the 2012 finals.
From the 4-6, 6-0, 6-2 loss Mitchell dealt him a year ago, and numerous meetings on the club circuit since, Lang knew Mitchell would try to step into his forehand and use it to dictate the match.
A veteran lefty, Lang effectively used his backhand to throw Mitchell off balance, hitting it deep to keep Mitchell lifting off the forehand instead of driving through it. He also hustled to reach everything and hit passing shots whenever possible.
Lang and Mitchell, both of whom cruised to the finals, played long, back-and-forth games in the first set, which lasted over an hour. Once Lang jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the second set, he knew he just needed to focus on his serve and outlast the young defending champion.
“The beginning of matches you’re always a little bit nervous,” Lang said. “Once I got those first few holds, that really helped me. When I started getting some chances on his serve, I felt like I was really getting locked in.”
After taking the first set from Mitchell in 2011, Lang lost focus and the Sun Devils freshman ran over him in the second and third. But as Saturday’s rematch progressed, Lang grew stronger.
“I made a really conscious effort to keep it up,” Lang said. “I had just won a set so he may have been a little bit down. I didn’t want to let him back into the match. I think I was mentally stronger today, as well.”
Though talk around the tournament centered around Mitchell as the favorite, Cougars head coach Miikka Keronen had confidence in his senior swinger.
“I wasn’t totally surprised by it,” Keronen said. “He’s a little bit bigger this year, taller, stronger, and he’s playing so well this year. He had a good game plan and executed well. He needed to play well but he was definitely capable. He believed he could do it.”
Lang led the Cougars to a second-place team finish behind Cheyenne Mountain for the third straight year.
Pushing himself to one of his best clutch performances, Lang added his name to the short list of multiple state title-holders. Lang ended his Cougars career in grand fashion on the final point of the finals, signing it with an ace.
“I just think I wanted it more today than him,” Lang said. “Being a senior, I think that made the difference.”
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Class 4A state tennis tournament
At Pueblo City Park
Team scores —Cheyenne Mountain 80, Niwot 57, Colorado Academy 52, Kent Denver 49, Air Academy 43, Discovery Canyon 19, Mullen 9, Aspen 4, Steamboat Springs 4, Alexander Dawson 3, Silver Creek 3, Evergreen 1, Greeley Central 1, Pueblo Central 1, Valor Christian 1, Vanguard 1, Windsor 1.
No. 1 singles — Harrison Lang, Niwot, def. David Mitchell, Kent Denver, 6-4, 6-2.
No. 2 singles — Jesse Ruder-Hook, Colorado Academy, def. Spencer Lang, Niwot, 7-6(1), 6-3.
No. 3 singles — Andrew Venner, Cheyenne Mountain, def. Keenan Kaltenbacher, 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-3.
No. 1 doubles — Cole Benson/Austin Hampton, Cheyenne Mountain, def. Carter Pentz/Drew Pasma, Niwot, 6-2, 6-1.
No. 2 doubles — Mac Mease/Noah Forman, Colorado Academy, def. Matt Clancy/Nathaniel Rocks, Cheyenne Mountain, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4.
No. 3 doubles — Colt Sessions/Carsten Lux, Cheyenne Mountain, def. Jon Payne/Andrew Thompson, Kent Denver, 6-2, 7-6(2).
No. 4 doubles — Matt Ryan/Michael Sheldon, Air Academy, def. Zach Turner/Will McDermid, Colorado Academy, 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-2.
No. 1 singles — Stephen Moore, Cheyenne Mountain, def. Luke Lorenz, Discovery Canyon, 6-4, 1-6, 6-1.
No. 2 singles — Billy Fielding, Cheyenne Mountain, def. Brandon Nachbar, Discovery Canyon, 6-3, 6-1.
No. 3 singles — Kevin Adams, Kent Denver, def. Allen Fu, Niwot, 6-3, 6-2.
No. 1 doubles — Charlie Alpert/Ryan Beyer, Kent Denver, def. Peter Sisk/Ian Peterson, Colorado Academy, 7-6(3), 6-3.
No. 2 doubles — Jeff Milliman/Kent Schaller, Air Academy, def. Trevor Jones/Scott Rutherford, Niwot, 6-4, 6-4.
No. 3 doubles — Naish Gaubats/Everett Valtin, Air Academy, def. Will Baird/Griffin Prall, Colorado Academy, 7-6(3), 6-1.
No. 4 doubles — Robbie Boe/Will Geisz, Cheyenne Mountain, def. Jack Turnage/Blake Parsons, Kent Denver, 6-3, 6-1.