BOULDER — With one of the state’s top freshmen manning the No. 1 singles slot and improved depth at the back end of its doubles lineup, the Boulder boys tennis team clearly has closed the gap with their rivals from Fairview.
Yet there are reasons why Fairview is expected to challenge Cherry Creek for the Class 5A title, and the Knights made sure those reasons were on full display Thursday during the teams’ cross-town rivalry showdown. Behind a sweep of all three singles matchups, Fairview posted a 5-2 victory in a dual meet at Centennial Middle School.
“Boulder High has always had a history of being a very good team, and this year, I think the addition of Kap (Smith) it only strengthens them for the years to come,” Fairview coach Chad Tsuda said. “They have a bright, bright future.”
While Smith, the Panthers’ rookie at No. 1 singles, is a star of the future, he ran into a star of the here and now in Fairview senior Ignatius Castelino, whose health is getting on track just in time for his final run through the state tournament.
The owner of three straight runner-up finishes at state, Castelino has played at less than 100 percent the past few weeks due to illness and a slightly sprained ankle. Those shortcomings seemed to be well behind Castelino in his first meeting against Smith, as he cruised to a 6-0, 6-3 victory.
“He’s a good player and made some good shots, but I was able to overpower him physically,” Castelino said. “I don’t think I’ve felt 100 percent yet the whole season, but today I definitely felt better. It’s definitely beneficial that we play all these good teams so we’ll be ready for state.”
Fairview is capping a busy week in which it defeated Cherry Creek in a dual meet and also tied the Bruins this past weekend at the Cherry Creek Invitational. That momentum continued against the Panthers, as Fairview also earned singles victories from No. 2 Tommy Mason and No. 3 Alec Leddon. The Knights’ top two doubles teams also posted victories, with the No. 2 duo of Devin Harper and Graham Blanco winning in three sets.
“The competition we’ve gotten in the last couple weeks is strengthening the team,” Tsuda said. “Not only in our playing, but in our team morale. Every guy is playing for each other now and there’s not a lot of individual thinking.”
Boulder’s No. 3 and No. 4 doubles teams kept the Knights from making it a clean sweep, with the No. 3 duo of Connor Dawson/Tom Neville surviving for a three-set win. Aidan Mulligan/Kelby Woodard posted a 6-3, 6-0 win at No. 4 doubles.
“I do think we’re getting better as a team,” Boulder coach Adrian Games said. “I don’t even look at it as closing the gap with (Fairview). I look at it as stepping it up every week, and inevitably we’ll close the gap on everyone.”
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Fairview 5, Boulder 2
Singles — 1. Ignatius Castelino, Fairview, def. Kap Smith 6-4, 6-3; 2. Tommy Mason, Fairview, def. Jackson Hawk 6-4, 6-2; 3. Alec Leddon, Fairview, def. Cutter Esson 6-4, 6-4.
Doubles — 1. Andrew Pollack/Tom Melville, Fairview, def. Arie van Vuuren/Nathan Lazarus 6-4, 6-3; 2. Devin Harper/Graham Blanco, Fairview, def. Henry Hawk/Cole Smith 6-3, 3-6, 6-2; 3. Connor Dawson/Scott Neville, Boulder, def. Ethan Schact/Spencer Clauson 4-6, 7-6 (7-2), 6-1; 4. Aidan Mulligan/Kelby Woodard, Boulder, def. Jackson Martin/Brooks Savage 6-3, 6-0.