DENVER — By the time Fairview sophomore Quinn Bernthal was playing in her third set of the Class 5A state semifinals at Gates Tennis Center on Friday, the rest of her teammates had finished their own semifinal matches.
The Knights, who had sent six of their seven lines to the semis, transformed into the loudest cheerleaders for their No. 1 singles teammate as they boisterously supported her after every point she won. That energy helped push Bernthal past Cherry Creek’s Jacqueline Pearsall in a daunting third set.
Pearsall claimed the first set before Bernthal started to shake off the nerves. Once Bernthal regained her composure, she mastered the second set with a 6-2 score. Pearsall, however, wasn’t going to let her take the third set that easily.
The two ladies battled the first few games and tied at 2-2 early. After that, Bernthal started to take control and built up a 5-2 lead before putting her away with a 2-6, 6-2, 6-3 final. In doing so, she punched her ticket to the 1 singles title match to take on fellow Boulderite Lily Chitambar, who won the 1 singles title last year for Boulder High.
It will be the first all-Boulder school 1 singles final in 52 years of the sport’s existence in the Colorado high school sphere.
“It took me a little while to find my forehand, and I think I kind of got it back in the second and third set and was able to play a little bit more free,” Bernthal said. “I kind of just tried to hit a little deeper and tried to just relax myself like, ‘I want to play how I want to remember the match.’”
She’ll certainly never forget the performance she put down on Friday morning.
A year, earlier, Bernthal played her way to the title match at 3 singles, only to fall to Cherry Creek’s Anika Sharma. Now, she’ll get a shot at state glory after proving herself to be one of the top two tennis players in Colorado.
Her title match will begin at 9 a.m. on Saturday at the Gates Tennis Center.
“I usually don’t get too worked up but this match meant a little bit more to me, so that was exciting,” she said. “(The cheering) helped a lot. I was really pumped up in the third set. I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited for a match. Their energy really kept me going.”
Boulder’s Chitambar stays undefeated
It’s hard to stay perfect with the level of tennis being played in Colorado these days, but Boulder senior Chitambar has proven herself to be elite even among the elite.
She’s had quite the target on her back all season long after claiming the Class 5A state crown at 1 singles in 2021, but she’s let that fuel her straight back to the finals on Saturday against Bernthal. She hasn’t dropped a single set yet and continued that streak on Friday morning with a quick 6-1, 6-2 victory over Ralston Valley’s Ally Lowe in the semis.
Now, it all comes down to one last match for her to reclaim her 5A throne.
Fairview once again in mix for team title
By the end of the day Friday, Cherry Creek sat atop the team standings with 73 points, but the Knights were right on its tail with 66 points and five lines heading to their respective championship matches.
The Bruins have dominated the 5A tennis scene the last decade, as they’ve nabbed eight team titles, with the exception of 2016 and the canceled 2020 season. Fairview beat them out for the team crown in 2016 and finished runner-up in 2021, 2015 and 2012.
The Knights put themselves in an excellent position to take home some more hardware on Saturday as their 1 singles, 2 singles, 3 singles, 1 doubles and 2 doubles teams all emerged victorious during the semifinals.
Mia Grayson and Emily Hao, their 3 doubles team, earned their way to the third-place match after defeating Legacy’s Emily Smith and Kady Vu in a thrilling playback on Friday that saw set scores of 2-6, 7-6 (8-6), 6-1.
Going the distance
Legacy’s 3 doubles players had never gotten as far as they did in Friday’s state tournament competition. The junior-senior pair, which played 4 doubles last year, didn’t get the chance at a playback in a 2021 tournament that didn’t allow any due to COVID restrictions.
This year, Smith and Vu not only won their first match against Fruita Monument in a 6-2, 6-3 final, but they gave their last two opponents a good run for their money. Ralston Valley’s pair edged them out with 6-4, 6-3 set scores in the quarterfinals. Then, the Lightning ladies took an early lead on Fairview’s Grayson and Hao in the first set before the Knights battled all the way back in the end.
Vu, a senior, believes she and her teammates have experienced incredible improvement in her four years with the program.
“I’m really proud of (Smith) and us because we’ve grown a lot since last year,” Vu said. “Our net play and our communication have gotten so much better. We were pretty good partners last year but now, we’re definitely a unit and we move together.”
She’s looking forward to seeing how much farther the Legacy coaches can carry the program after she graduates.