DENVER — If Amber Shen was overwhelmed by the moment, she never showed it.
The Fairview freshman has played a lot of tennis for her young age and in all sorts of venues, with all sorts of crowds, but Wednesday morning in the No. 1 singles final of the Class 5A state tournament at Gates Tennis Center will be one she remembers for a long time.
Playing in what some would argue as a huge underdog role against Cherry Creek’s Kalyssa Hall, Shen blocked out all of the possible distractions and rallied from a set down to the Bruins junior to win 3-6, 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (8-6) and make it a clean sweep for Fairview tennis at No. 1 singles — Ignatius Castelino won much the same fashion last fall — this school year.
“She usually goes after the ball the ball a little bit more, and I think the roles were switched, because I am the one who is more consistent and she is the one who is really aggressive,” said Shen, who was one the court for nearly three hours. “And because of that, it helped me win today.”
Playing Hall for the first time, Shen found herself in a quick hole in the first set. She was down 3-0 before much of the fans had a chance to settle in and won only two points in that stretch.
Hall continued her steady play in the first set, committing just one unforced error to Shen’s 13.
It looked like it was going to be a runaway for Hall, who won a title last season for Cheyenne Mountain in Class 4A, when she bolted to a quick 3-1 lead in the second.
But the light came on for Shen from that point on. After a few missed calls by Hall were overturned by the chair umpire in the favor of Shen, it seemed to fluster the Cherry Creek star, who watched her lead disappear.
Shen won four straight games to go up 5-3 and had a chance to close out the set, but Hall rallied, broke her serve and surged back to a 6-5 lead.
Hall had a chance to serve for the match, but Shen responded with her own break to force a tiebreaker.
“At that point I had a couple of thoughts that I was going to lose,” Shen said. “I was able to stay focused at that point and I got lucky a few times, but I felt like I played really well today.”
Shen got some words of advice from Knights coach Susan Stensrud during the break between sets, saying: “I told her just to go after it. I felt like she was being tentative. I told her to be aggressive.”
The third set remained on serve through the first seven games and it was Hall who drew first blood, with a break of Shen’s serve in the eighth to go up 5-3. Shen then answered right back with a break of her own before things started to get really crazy.
On the first point of the tenth game, Shen hit a passing shot that caught the line and Hall called it out. The chair umpire intervened for the fourth time, overruling Hall’s call and awarding her not just the point, but the game to make it 5-5.
“I feel like this match was the one match that I was most mentally strong even through the situation,” Shen said.
Luckily for Hall, the chair umpire keen on letting the players decide the match, because “By rule, I should have defaulted the match,” he said.
In the deciding tiebreaker, Hall was overruled two more times — much to her voiced dismay — including a sixth and final time to put Shen up 7-6. She would close out the championship on the very next point.
“I have never seen that before and I have never had an opponent get penalized like that before,” Shen said. “I think Kalyssa was right about it being just a point penalty, but I’ll take it.”
Fairview, which finished second with 67 points to 19-time champion Cherry Creek’s 87, also crowned a doubles champion at No. 3 doubles. Sarah Sharpe and Skylar Caledonia capped off a brilliant season with a 6-3, 6-4 straight set victory over the Cherry Creek team of Julia Mannino and Sarah Grace Walker.
“Of course you want your mind set to be, ‘Hey, we can do it.’ But I also pictured the moment when we might lose,” said Sharpe, a senior, who was playing her first year of varsity.
Said Caledonia: “I was shaking when I got off the court. It will sink in soon.”
At No. 2 singles, junior Natalie Munson was again denied a title when she lost in straight sets to Cherry Creek’s Anshika Singh 6-0, 6-0.
It was much the same fate at No. 3 singles for Angela Cai. In her first title match, Cai lost 6-1, 6-3 to Cherry Creek’s Gloria Son.
The Fairview team of Carolyn Roberts and Ellie Savage, who finished runner-up at No. 4 doubles last season, again finished as the runner-up, this time at No. 2. They lost to Creek’s tandem of Jessie Murphy and Mariela Hollines 6-2, 6-3.
After losing in the first round of the tournament, the No. 4 doubles team of Caralynn Jamison and Lily Siegert fought their way back through the playbacks and ultimately finished fourth.
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CLASS 5A STATE TOURNAMENT
At Gates Tennis Center
Team scores — Cherry Creek 87, Fairview 67, Fossil Ridge 39, Mountain Vista 25, Ralston Valley 25, Mountain Range 15, Denver East 11, Heritage 11, Rock Canyon 9, Arapahoe 7, Legend 7, Poudre 6, Greeley West 4, Chatfield 3, Columbine 2, Highlands Ranch 2, Lakewood 2, Regis Jesuit 1, Legacy 1, Liberty 1, Douglas County 1, Ponderosa 1, Fruita Monument 1.
No. 1 singles — Amber Shen, Fairview def. Kalyssa Hall, Cherry Creek, 3-6, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (6).
No. 2 singles — Anshika Singh, Cherry Creek def. Natalie Munson, Fairview, 6-0, 6-0.
No. 3 singles — Gloria Son, Cherry Creek def. Angela Cai, Fairview, 6-1, 6-3.
No. 1 doubles — Haley Weidemann/Adrien Horowitz, Ralston Valley def. Sam Penhale, Bailey Koronich, Fossil Ridge, 6-3, 6-3.
No. 2 doubles — Jessie Murphy/Mariela Hollines, Cherry Creek def. Carolyn Roberts/Ellie Savage, Fairview, 6-2, 6-3.
No. 3 doubles — Sarah Sharpe/Skylar Caledonia, Fairview def. Julia Mannino/Sara Grace Walker, Cherry Creek, 6-3, 6-4.
No. 4 doubles — Hannah Peterson/Allison Murphy, Cherry Creek def. Riley Knipp/Priya Keller, Ralston Valley, 6-3, 6-3.
No. 1 singles — Casey Zhong, Mountain Vista def. Kristen Kirby, Mountain Range, 6-1, 4-6, 6-2.
No. 2 singles — Emma Jo Wiley, Fossil Ridge def. Kendra Lavallee, Mountain Vista, 6-1, 6-3.
No. 3 singles — Tara Teslow, Fossil Ridge def. Haley Hilenbrand, Legend, 6-3, 6-1.
No. 1 doubles — Maddie Roberts/Micha Handler, Cherry Creek def. Natalie Sloboth/Sarah Shortall, Arapahoe, 6-2, 6-1.
No. 2 doubles — Katie Mead/Alyssa Schroeder, Denver East def. Sydney Boyle/Caroline Skibness, Rock Canyon, 6-2, 7-6 (5).
No. 3 doubles — Caroline McLeod/Olivia Woods, Heritage def. Laura Froning/Olivia Boyd, Chatfield, 7-5, 7-6 (4).
No. 4 doubles — Lydia Supe/Katie Hinz, Fossil Ridge def. Caralynn Jamison/Lily Siegert, Fairview, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (4).