The local storylines for the state tennis tournament are aplenty, as usual, and for teams that have historically had the best chance at contending for a state title, it only seems like a recycled narrative.
As in 2018, ‘17, and going on back in recent memory, Fairview and Niwot lead the area scene with a full-bundle of players headed to their respective tournaments.
With state play beginning Thursday, the Knights, touting five regional winners and two runners-up from last week, will be at the Gates Tennis Center in Denver for 5A. The Cougars, who won six regional titles and took second in another, will be at Pueblo City Park for 4A.
“We always have high expectations,” Fairview coach Chad Tsuda said.
“Now for state, the learning curve for them is getting higher and higher.”
The Knights are led by ace Luke Silverman, who returns to the No. 1 singles scene after winning a match there as a sophomore. Behind him, new-No. 2 player Adam Heilbronner and No. 3 Kian Grimison round out the trio.
Over the past two seasons, Fairview’s singles play has gone a long way in deciding the team’s final outcome. In 2018, the singles group scored just two of the team’s 29 points to take third. The year before, they put up 45 as the Knights won the state title.
The focus for them, though, is much neater.
“We always try to keep it as simple as we can and I’ve talked to each position about their first match without thinking too far ahead,” Tsuda said. “We try to eliminate any conversations about state titles and all that kind of stuff.”
With a similarly strong lineup, Niwot isn’t thinking past Thursday, either.
Up at top, Neil Wilcox returns to No. 1 singles after falling in the semifinals in 2018. Meanwhile, Sam Keronen will make his No. 2 singles debut and Ben Bicknell will look to rise to the top of No. 3 singles after finishing runner-up last year.
“We look pretty good,” Niwot coach Mikka Keronen said. “This team is super talented, but not maybe as intense (as other teams in the past). I definitely feel like we should be a top-three team there.
“We’ll see. I’m kind of excited to see.”
Elsewhere, Dawson nearly had a full showing of its own, sending players at every position in 4A, minus No. 4 doubles.
Its No. 1 singles player, Riley Burridge, won all eight of his matches listed on MaxPreps and claimed a regional title. Back of him, No. 2 player Kevin Patel also topped his region, as did the team’s No. 1, 2 and 3 doubles teams. No. 3 singles player Phil Geraghty took second.
Longmont sends at five positions in 4A, led by ace Henry Matheson, who fell to Wilcox in his region. No. 2 player Danny O’Brien, the only non-Niwot winner there, will join him along with the team’s No. 2, 3 and 4 doubles teams.
Others to watch include Monarch’s Michael Conde, who won a region title to reach the 5A No. 1 singles draw. In the opening round he will face Fort Collins junior David Augustine, who he beat in three sets in a dual on Aug. 29.
The Coyotes are also sending No. 2 singles player Conner Smith, No. 3 player Jack Reuter and their No. 3 doubles team.
Also in 5A, Broomfield’s Charlie Vanderberg will face Fossil Ridge’s Brady Elliott and Boulder’s No. 4 doubles team will face Ralston Valley.
In 4A, Silver Creek is sending three of its doubles teams, while Skyline is bringing No. 3 player James Wongsudin and Erie is taking its 1-doubles team.
Both tournaments run Thursday through Saturday. Matches begin at 9 a.m each day.