GREELEY — Dawson freshman Bridget Bell had a pretty good idea of what it was going to take to win a state title on Saturday afternoon at Centennial Park against Colorado Academy’s Savannah Mease.
It was two short weeks ago that the two staged an epic three-set affair that went the way of Mease.
Turnabout is fair play and on the grandest of stages, Bell got her revenge by outlasting her opponent — again in three sets — 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 for the No. 2 singles title in Class 3A.
“I knew that I could do it, because I had hung with her before and it was such a close match during the dual season,” she said. “I really wanted to prove to myself that I could do it and that I could win.”
And it was anything but easy for the Mustangs frosh, who after jumping to a quick 4-0 lead in the first set, saw her opponent switch up tactics — away from a hard-hitting ground-stroke baseline game to a lobbing match that got her back into the match.
“Full credit to Bridget for maintaining her mental composure, that isn’t easy for anyone including the fans to watch that,” said Dawson coach Kathy Benninghoff, whose Mustangs rallied on the final day to earn a share of 2nd place in the team race with Colorado Academy at 54 points; three behind champion D’Evelyn’s 57. “She somehow found a quiet space inside herself, relaxed enough to play the lob game until she could find inroads.”
After losing six straight games to drop the first set, Bell reset and scored two early breaks in the second set to jump out to a 3-0 lead and carried that to a 6-2 victory to force a decisive third.
At 3-3 in the third, Bell got the big break she needed in the seventh game and then more importantly held her own serve to go up 5-3, giving her two shots to close out the match. In the lengthy final game, she fought off two break points and squandered two championship points before finally finishing it off.
“I’m so proud and so happy to represent, and we are not only making history, but now we have bragging rights over the boys team,” Bell said. “They brag about their banners in the gym, but now we have them too.”
Bell’s title came nearly an hour after her teammate Maggie Berry made quick work of D’Evelyn’s Rachel Molnar at No. 3 singles, 6-3, 6-1.
It capped off a perfect season for the Harvard-bound Berry, who not only didn’t lose a match, but never dropped a set on her way to the title.
“Right now it’s still settling in, but it is a very gratifying to win it and share it with my school and my teammates, because I wouldn’t have been here without them,” said Berry, and accomplished pianist who favors impressionist pianist and is partial to the piece Claire de Lune. “I was thinking yesterday about having not lost a set, and it was sort of a little game within my mind, and I guess I won. It kept me motivated and focused.”
It was the first two state titles for the Dawson program that has found a competitive home in Class 3A.
“This team has worked so hard for so long, and my colleague Lisa (Christie) and I have worked with them since seventh grade in the middle school program,” said Benninghoff, who had five positions place on Saturday. “We saw something special in them early and I’m just delighted to be under this 3A umbrella. It has allowed us to flourish and believe we have a real shot.”
It was also a first for the Holy Family No. 3 doubles tandem of Leah Schwartz and Camilla Ruiz, who won the school’s first state tennis title. The Tigers outlasted D’Evelyn’s Maggie Hime and Olivia Sanders in straight sets 7-5, 6-4.
“It’s so amazing and I wanted it to end well,” said Ruiz, whose partner rejoined her after an early season injury three weeks ago. “At the beginning, I actually doubted the chemistry and wondered if it was going to work; but we kept working on it. We communicated and we connected and it led to this.”
Said Holy Family coach Brittany Storgaard, who was driven to tears after match point went her teams way: “More than anything it was thinking about how hard it has been to get here and all the hard work we’ve put into it. It’s been more than a season of work, these girls have earned it from Day 1.”
CLASS 3A STATE TOURNAMENT
At Centennial Park (Greeley)
Team scores — D’Evelyn 57, Colorado Academy 54, Dawson 54, Holy Family 40, Eaton 30, Steamboat Springs 28, Aspen 18, University 12, C.S. Christian 12, Vanguard 9, Pueblo County 5, Fountain Valley 3, Peak to Peak 2, Mead 2, St. Mary’s Academy 1, Lutheran 1.
No. 1 singles — Sammy Moore-Thomson, Colorado Academy def. Mae Thorp, Steamboat Springs, 6-0, 6-0.
No. 2 singles — Bridget Bell, Dawson def. Savannah Mease, Colorado Academy, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4.
No. 3 singles — Maggie Berry, Dawson def. Rachel Molnar, D’Evelyn, 6-3, 6-1.
No. 1 doubles — Courtney Leafgren/Shelby Naill, Eaton def. Angi Reed/Taylor Whatley, D’Evelyn, 6-3, 6-4.
No. 2 doubles — Cammy Lee/Elisa Dean, D’Evelyn def. Maren Steiner/Coline Smolky, Holy Family, 6-3, 6-1.
No. 3 doubles — Leah Schwartz/Camilla Ruiz, Holy Family def. Maggie Hime/Olivia Sanders, D’Evelyn, 7-5, 6-4.
No. 4 doubles — Charity Perks/Keri Jennings, D’Evelyn def. Alexandra Ford/Story Wolf-Tinsman, Colorado Academy, 6-4, 5-7, 6-2.
No. 1 singles — Mary Williams, Aspen def. Myiah Scott, Eaton, 6-1, 6-4.
No. 2 singles — Maddie Thompson, Steamboat Springs def. Camille Krammer, University, 6-3, 7-6.
No. 3 singles — Nicole Pei, C.S. Christian def. Lindsey Bovine, Holy Family, 3-6, 7-5, 7-6.
No. 1 doubles — Ellie Beeck/Alexa Rinard, Dawson def. Amelia Lochhead/Hope Cherubini, Colorado Academy, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
No. 2 doubles — Allie Blank/Isabelle Shehan, Dawson def. Karina Keller/Grace Ferguson, Aspen, 6-4, 7-5.
No. 3 doubles — .Ann-Claire Lin/Lila Arnold, Colorado Academy def. Aria Barbour/Quin Ramos, Dawson, 7-5, 6-4
No. 4 doubles — Lexi Licata/Kate Diamond, Holy Family def. Sydney Booth/Mikaelee Salberg, Eaton, 6-3, 6-1.