Girls tennis: Holy Family No. 4 duo takes falls in title match

Chris McLean / Pueblo Chieftain
Niwot’s Taylor Thulson (left) is congratulated by teammate Jami Albert after winning the third-place match at No. 2 singles in the 4A girls tennis state championships.


PUEBLO — Appearing in Wednesday’s No. 4 doubles championship match, Holy Family’s Brianna Bartlett and An Tran were in foreign territory when it comes to their school’s experience at the state tournament.

The first players from their school to reach the state finals, Bartlett and Tran fell to D’Evelyn’s Trinity Payne and Cammy Lee 6-3, 6-1 in the championship match. They didn’t quite reach their division’s pinnacle, but the duo broke new ground for their school and its girls tennis program.

“It feels pretty cool,” Tran said. “They’re a great team, they’re really sweet and it was a great match. The pressure was there in the second set and we just couldn’t keep up. But we got there and that’s huge.”

Capping a breakout year for the entire program, Holy Family finished 11th in the team scoring. Third-year head coach Brittany Storgaard said the 2015 season turned out to be even better than she had hoped, even given the momentum Holy Family has been building over the past few seasons.

“More than anything, the girls just wanted it this year,” Storgaard said. “They played with so much heart, they worked really hard all season and when it counted, they left nothing back. We couldn’t be more proud of them. We really didn’t know what to expect this year because we were moving into a new league, we were in some new tournaments and we weren’t seeing the teams we were used to seeing. We’re really happy with how it turned out.”

Compared to the usual scene on the final day of the 4A girls tennis state tournament, there certainly seemed to be a shortage of Niwot players on the Pueblo City Park courts during Wednesday’s final day.

Cracking the top 10 in the team scoring at nine of the last 10 state tournaments, including the 2008 state title, Niwot yet again finished ninth in 2015. But the Cougars didn’t do it with the same flair, and legion of numbers in championship and third-place matches on the final day, that they are used to.

That’s not to say that Niwot didn’t leave its mark at this year’s rain-delayed state tournament. It did. In doing so, Niwot may have also given the state a glimpse at its potential to compete for a team title in the next several years.

The young Niwot squad did have a player left on the final day and freshman Taylor Thulson represented her team well. Defeating Colorado Academy’s Savannah Mease 6-3, 6-3, Thulson capped her first prep season with a third-place finish at No. 2 singles.

“I was a good match and I played really, really well,” Thulson said. “It was great to close out the season and finish third. I never expected to get third at state, especially as a freshman. I came in here just wanting to do my best and I did.”

Niwot will graduate four seniors this spring but also had four freshmen in its varsity lineup this season, including its top player in No. 1 singles ace Julia Pentz, who finished fifth in her first year.

After winning a miraculous three-set match in the quarterfinals, Pentz lost to runner-up Alex Weil in the semifinals. In the consolation semifinals, Pentz fell 5-7, 7-5, 6-3 to Pueblo West’s Sara Schoenbeck despite leading the 5-2 with a chance to close out the match in the second set.

With so many players returning, Niwot head coach Aimee Irwin hopes each of them gained valuable experience at the state tournament that could translate into higher finishes in 2016.

“The experience is obviously huge and we’re going to learn a lot from this for next year,” Irwin said. “Like Taylor today, she’s young and taking third was great for her. These girls are young and we’re trying to get them all playing over the summer. Hopefully, we all gained a lot of experience and next year we’ll come down here and we won’t be so nervous, we’ll be ready to rock.”

Niwot’s No. 3 singles player, senior Jami Albert, reached the championship quarterfinals but was not awarded a spot in the consolation bracket after losing to Colorado Academy’s Morgan Bullen. Niwot’s No. 1 doubles pair of Maura Derr and Isabelle Stafford also lost in the championship quarterfinals and did not receive a playback opportunity.

Niwot’s No. 2 and No. 3 doubles pairs both lost in the first round and did not get berths into the consolation bracket. Niwot’s No. 4 doubles pair did not qualify for the state tournament, which also made this year a rare occasion in which the Cougars did not qualify in all seven spots.

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At Pueblo City Park

Team scores — Cheyenne Mountain 73, Kent Denver 46, Colorado Academy 37, Pueblo West 27, D’Evelyn 25, Valor Christian 24, Steamboat Springs 21, Air Academy 17, Niwot 16, St. Mary’s Academy 14, Holy Family 12, Conifer 3, Durango 3, Mullen 2, Eaton 2, Discovery Canyon 1, Palmer Ridge 1, Windsor 1, University 1, Longmont 1, Pueblo South 1, Montrose 1.

Championship matches

Singles — 1. Tatum Burger, Steamboat Springs, def. Alex Weil, St. Mary’s Academy, 4-6, 6-1, 6-0; 2. Caroline Kawula, Kent Denver, def. Daniela Adamczyk, Cheyenne Mountain, 6-4, 7-6, 7-5; 3. Maeve Kearney, Kent Denver, def. Jessica Metz, Cheyenne Mountain, 6-3, 6-1.

Doubles — 1. Casey Ahrendsen/Ally Arenson, Cheyenne Mountain, def. Claudia Morse/Sage Lochhead, Colorado Academy, 6-2, 6-1; 2. Tory Louis/Claire Dibble, Cheyenne Mountain, def. Mikayla McDuff/Meghan Mcduff, Valor Christian, 6-1, 6-2; 3. Megan Dibble/Chelsey Geisz, Cheyenne Mountain, def. Keva O’Connor/Anna Oosterhous, Air Academy, 6-4, 6-1; 4. Trinity Payne/Cammy Lee, D’Evelyn, def. Brianna Bartlett/An Tran, Holy Family, 6-3, 6-1.

Third-place matches

Singles — 1. Sara Schoenbeck, Pueblo West, def. Tara Edwards, Colorado Academy, 6-4, 7-6; 2. Taylor Thulson, Niwot, def. Savannah mease, Colorado Academy, 6-3, 6-3; 3. Maeve McCarthy, Pueblo West, def. Morgan Bullen, Colorado Academy, 7-6, 6-1.

Doubles — 1. Elizabeth Smedley/Natalie Brondson, Kent Denver, def. Annie Hertel/Tiffany Parobek, Valor Christian, 6-3, 6-1; 2. Angie Reed/Taylor Whatley, D’Evelyn, def. Tempel Haifleigh/Isabel Haifleigh, Kent Denver, 6-3, 6-1; 3. Alaina Dawson/Jackie Pettit, Valor Christian, def. Mari Bernal/Brittany Quint, Pueblo West, 6-3, 7-5; 4. Tatumn Mika/Rachel Perry, Cheyenne Mountain, def. Toni Troje/Allison Reeder, Air Academy, 6-3, 6-1.