DENVER — Jackson Lewis struggled to gain any traction on Denver East’s Mason Heimel the first time the No. 2 singles players met this season.
The Boulder sophomore fell in just two sets so, naturally, he had to take a different approach when the two players went head-to-head in playbacks of the Class 5A state tennis tournament at the Gates Tennis Center on Friday. This time, he put Heimel away with 6-3, 6-1 scores to punch his ticket to the third-place match on Saturday morning.
It all boiled down to his mentality before he stepped foot on the court.
“Last time I played that guy, it was disappointing for me. This match, he was a little injured, I think, but I just came into it with a more positive attitude and I had a great outcome,” Lewis said. “It’s state, so it’s your last tournament of the year. I didn’t have much to lose, so I just felt not very pressured.”
Lewis will enter Saturday’s competition with a 3-1 record for the tournament, with his only loss of the weekend coming against Valor Christian’s Drew Schell, who’s playing for the 2 singles title. Boulder’s coach, Nick Salazar, calls his sophomore phenom a “silent sleeper,” especially considering he’s never been to state before.
Lewis wasn’t the only Panther to make it to the third-place match.
Their No. 4 doubles team, junior Chase Lewis and freshman Isaac Ferayorni, had to battle through an incredibly tough playback match with Regis Jesuit to advance to the next day as well. Their match went the full three sets with final scores of 7-6, 6-7 and 6-4.
The Panthers’ success, however, started at regionals.
“I think that when we won and we qualified every single position to go to state, right there shows the success of our program,” Salazar said. “This is the biggest tournament in the state, obviously. This is some of the best competition, great talent all around and I think that having my boys — a very young team — being exposed to this type of caliber, it’s just going to make us more hungry for next year. I could not be prouder seeing my 2 singles and 4 doubles having the opportunity to play for third place at their respective positions, getting us points. This has been a great season and I’m just looking forward to continuing success in the future.”
Fairview also came tantalizingly close to sending a few lines to their respective third-place matches, but the Knights fell just short. No. 3 singles player Isaac Christensen gave them their best shot.
Throughout his playback match with Denver East’s Ryan Pool, Christensen had to play from behind. He lost the first set in a 6-4 decision, only to bounce back and split the second at 6-3. The competitors battled point for point in the final frame before Pool won out with another 6-4 final.
The ending, though a bit disappointing for the senior, showcased his talent on the court as he had to transition from No. 2 doubles up to singles.
“It was just tough knowing that we lost the top half of our team and knowing that I would be one of the two returning seniors,” Christensen said. “It was just a lot of pressure on myself but I’m really proud. I’m not a singles player. I always wanted to play doubles and so I’m proud of myself that I stepped up and I made a good singles run.”
Fairview’s young team ended its season a bit earlier than it had hoped, but there were plenty of bright spots to look forward to in the future.
“I’ve seen our guys steadily improve throughout the year and as we enter these bigger moments — conference tournament, regionals and state — everybody has stepped up really well,” head coach Doug Kazarosian said. “I would say it’s been defined by a lot of grit and perseverance. These kids, coming off COVID, were so excited just to be together and play, much less compete against an incredibly difficult schedule. I was so unbelievably proud of their effort, their attitude and just their general demeanor.”
Monarch tennis also enjoyed some success at the tournament as senior Conner Smith won his way to the semifinals before falling 6-2, 6-0 to Regis’ Conor Kaczmarczyk. His run ended in the playbacks after he lost once again to Fossil Ridge’s John Shelby by a 6-3, 6-1 final.