PAUL AIKEN
Alec Leddon (left) and Ignatius Castelino hope to lead Fairview’s boys tennis team on a run toward the Class 5A state title.

BOULDER — The argument could be made that Fairview’s 1-2 punch at the top of its tennis ladder is the best in the state.

Ignatius Castelino and Alec Leddon will move up a rung on said ladder for the Knights in their quest to bring the gold trophy back to Boulder.

“It’s huge! Having that kind of experience at the top two positions and all the way down the line, if they are confident at their positions, then everybody is confident where they are playing,” said Fairview coach Chad Tsuda, who enters his seventh season at his alma mater after a brilliant prep career that produced a state championship. “If the singles and the No. 1 doubles team are confident, then the whole team is confident in how they perform against the best teams in the state.”

Tsuda referred to Castelino and Leddon as “veterans.” High praise indeed, especially for Leddon, who will be starting his sophomore season after a runner-up finish at No. 3 singles in his first prep season last fall.

The spotlight, however, will be on Castelino as he makes the jump from No. 2 (where he finished runner-up last season) to the top spot. It is a role the junior should fill with great ease after a successful summer of high-caliber tennis not just in Colorado but across the country.

“I did pretty good, won a lot of stuff and got second at sectionals,” Castelino said.

There will be a bit of a learning curve for both players, especially for Castelino, whose jump to No. 1 singles will be a challenge against the state’s best players on a match-to-match basis. And both he and Tsuda are in agreement that the mental aspect of playing the position is equally as important as the physical challenges of better players.

Maybe the best way to draw a sort of comparison to the jump is that it’s similar to going from minor league baseball to the majors. It’s not always an easy acclimation at first, but over time it starts to become natural.

“He got the best experience he could have getting to the finals of the sectional championships, which is the five states around here, as well as nationally; so he definitely has the experience now,” Tsuda said. “I believe he knows all of the competitors that will be playing No. 1, so I think he’s just excited to get the season started.”

Said Castelino, who bowed out of the USTA 18 and 16 national championship in Kalamazoo, Mich., earlier this month to California’s Joshua Pompan in the second round: “I think I’ll be ready to take on the challenge. Playing 1’s, the whole team expects you to play well and to win and the team looks up to you.”

Castelino and Leddon are obvious shoe-ins for singles play and Tsuda is blessed with options after that. Tommy Mason, who was half of the No. 1 doubles team with Kevin Chen that won a state title last season, could move up and so too could Brock Dehaven. Dehaven teamed with Chen in 2011 to finish third at No. 1 doubles before moving back east and is now back to take care of some unfinished business.

“There is nothing that is a given, but I always feel like we will compete,” said Castelino, whose team scored 64 points at state last season to Cherry Creek’s 80. “We’ll try our hardest and see what we can do against them.”

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