PUEBLO – Neil Wilcox’s bid for a perfect tennis tournament came to an end Friday. So he’ll have to settle for just going for the No. 1 singles championship on Saturday.
Wilcox advanced to the Class 4A state final following his 6-0, 6-2 win over Mullen’s Mac Caldwell. He’ll face Cheyenne Mountain’s Joey Geisz in the final at Pueblo City Park.
The two dropped games in the second set against Caldwell were the first games Wilcox lost in the 2019 tournament — a tournament where he looks the part of pending champion.
“I lost my focus and got a little frustrated,” Wilcox said. “I wasn’t playing my best tennis, but he was also playing very well.”
Not playing the best tennis has been a little bit of the theme for Niwot this week. Expectations were high for a team that left the courts with a team second place trophy a year ago.
Wilcox entered the bracket as a favorite to win No. 1 singles and the Cougars overall had the makeup of a team that most everyone would target. The problem is, it became the team that everyone targeted, and a lot of opponents hit their mark.
Sam Keronen suffered a shocking defeat to Aspen’s Alex Mosher in the first round on Thursday. Mosher couldn’t advance to the No. 2 singles final meaning Keronen didn’t get into the playback bracket where there were more points to be had.
As a result, the Cougars will be on the outside looking in as Cheyenne Mountain and Mullen battle for the team title. Cheyenne Mountain leads the race with 69 points after Friday. Mullen has 54 and Niwot sits in third with 41.
Senior Ben Bicknell advanced to the final in No. 3 singles and it will join Wilcox as the only Cougars going for a gold medal. That’s a big ask and even as a junior, one Wilcox is willing to take on his shoulders in order to build future momentum for the team.
“This is the best I’ve ever done at this tournament in No. 1 singles,” Wilcox said. “Especially for my team, I need to be a role model. I need to go out, take care of business and support my team.”
Anton Lavrouk and Ivan Calderon will play for third place in No. 1 doubles. On the court next to them, they’ll see teammates Xavier Moy and Luke Weder go for third in No. 2 doubles.
Dawson was another team with high hopes heading into Friday’s slate of matches, but also came away a little disappointed. Senior Riley Burridge will battle for third place in No. 1 singles after losing to Geisz.
It won’t be a state championship, but Burridge has every intention of finishing his high school career on a strong note.
“There’s a little extra because there are a few of us that are seniors,” he said. “I want to go out with a win. I think it should be a fun match, so I’ll just go out there and have some fun and whatever happens, happens.”
All championship and third-place matches will begin at 9 a.m. on Saturday at Pueblo City Park.