Girls tennis: Fairview’s Pearson outlasts Boulder’s Chitambar in 5A state tournament thriller

No. 1 singles match between locals lasted 2 1/2 hours


DENVER — Gathered into a tight corner at the edge of the Gates Tennis Center, a horde of Fairview and Boulder onlookers were treated to a 2 1/2 hour classic between two of the area’s top high school players.

Knights senior Sophie Pearson outlasted Boulder freshman Lily Chitambar in three sets Friday afternoon to advance to Saturday’s Class 5A state semifinals, now only two wins away from gold.

Pearson won the opening set before Chitambar rallied to take the second in a heated tiebreaker, setting up a brilliant finish. The Knights senior ripped a scathing crosscourt winner as part of building a 3-1 lead. Chitambar responded with a few dazing shots of her own, including a perfectly-placed drop shot, that helped her win the next two games and draw even.

Pearson eventually ended the match with three straight wins and clinched 6-2, 6-7 (5), 6-3, moving her into the semifinals against Arapahoe’s Julia Rydel.

“I knew I’d have to work really hard, especially with a hard match every round,” said Pearson, who fell to Chitambar in three sets at the Front Range League tournament two weeks ago. “My goal is just to play well, do as well as I can, and hopefully win.”

Saturday’s weather forecast calls for sunny skies as state champions are expected to be crowned. The usual three-day tournaments in 5A-3A had to be sandwiched into two days by CHSAA after wintery weather ruined Thursday’s plans.

Pearson, who won twice Friday, can cap her high school career with a second state title with two more victories Saturday. The senior, who missed last high school season while playing at a developmental academy in California, won gold in No. 3 singles as a freshman.

Also, in contention is Knights sophomore Alexis Bernthal, who kept her season-long perfect-set record intact with two quick wins, as well as Monarch’s No. 2 doubles sister tandem Laura Cook and Savannah Cook.

Elsewhere, Legacy had two positions move into the second round before No. 3 singles player Lily Kasic and No. 2 doubles Leila Daoud/Madelyn Rhodes bowed out in the quarterfinals. Monarch’s No. 1 doubles Ginger Harrington/Emma Lookner also fell in the quarterfinals, losing in three sets to Fossil Ridge. And about 30 minutes after Chitambar fell in heartbreaking fashion, fellow freshman teammate Lila Travis came up short in a three-set thriller of her own in the No. 3 singles quarters.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Boulder coach Elizabeth Korevaar said. “It’s an experience thing, their first time at state, so they didn’t know what they were walking into … They played beautifully. They were in it until the very end.”