Clifff Grassmick/Staff Photographer
DENVER — Lily Chitambar knew that the Class 5A state tennis tournament would be no walk in the park. After all, the No. 1 singles competition is as tight as it’s ever been, with the most talented players in the state coming head-to-head.
Still, she found a way to overcome her greatest challenge on the first day of the two-day tournament at Gates Tennis Center on Friday. After an extremely competitive first set, Chitambar pushed the pace in the second to wear down Fossil Ridge’s Makenna Collins and steal victory. Now, she’ll be returning Saturday for the semifinals after defeating Collins 6-4, 6-1 in the quarters.
Cherry Creek’s Jacque Pearsall, her opponent for the semis, will be no easy task either. The ladies know each other well, having played one another in the Class 5A Region 1 tournament last weekend. Pearsall got the better of her in three sets (6-2, 4-6, 2-6) but Chitambar believes that if she reins in her game a bit, she can overcome her to make it to the title match.
“She’s really good,” Chitambar said. “She’s got a great serve and great shots in general. She gets a lot of balls back as well. It was pretty close, so I’m just going to try my best to do a little better and fight hard. I’ll just work on anything that I felt I did a little bit wrong (in the last match) and try to compete and fight hard.”
Fairview saw an incredible amount of success on the first day, as the Knights advanced ladies in most competitions to the semis. No. 3 singles player Quinn Bernthal punched her ticket to the final four with a commanding 6-2, 6-0 win over Ralston Valley junior Samantha Sedillo in the quarterfinals.
The feat proved impressive for a freshman who’s never played on the high school state stage before.
“It’s really exciting. It’s great to get to play all these awesome players and get Colorado together for tennis,” Bernthal said. “It’s super fun. The team is really fun and it’s a lot different than regular tournaments just because everyone’s watching and it’s a lot more energy.”
But not everyone found the success they were hoping for on Friday. Legacy’s No. 3 singles player, Fabi Alvarez, had been battling a golfing elbow (inner joint) injury all year, and it finally caught up to her in her quarterfinal match against Fort Collins’ Evy Sadeh. Earlier in the day, she beat ThunderRidge’s Summer Nash 6-2, 6-4.
She won the first set against Sadeh by a 6-3 score before Sadeh stormed back to take the last two sets 6-2, 6-1. By that point, her elbow decided it had had enough. But even getting to that point with the challenge she had to face all season showed how talented she truly is.
“I’m pretty proud, with my injury, to just be able to get this far,” Alvarez said. “I think it’s just about mental and just being able to stick it with and saying, this injury is not going to prevent me from playing the way I play, being able to use the rest of your body to help you out.”
The semifinal competitions will resume on Saturday morning, and the Boulder area will see many athletes vying for that top spot among a sea of Colorado’s best.
Fairview will be sending girls in six of seven competitions into Saturday’s semifinals: Alexis Bernthal (1 singles), Natalie Stone (2 singles), Virginia Gomulka/Elizabeth Roth (1 doubles), Jane Roth/Maya Brakhage (2 doubles) and Mia Grayson/Emily Hao (3 doubles).