PUEBLO — As a junior last season, Niwot’s Anna Sallee came about as close as is possible to taking home a Class 4A No. 2 singles state title.
Advancing all the way to the championship match, Sallee came up just short, falling 7-5, 4-6, 7-5 to since-graduated Palmer Ridge senior Tessa Rothwell in the finals. The narrow defeat was disappointing. But at the same time, it was motivating for Sallee.
Determined to get another shot at the title that eluded her in 2021, Sallee punched her ticket back to the championship match on Friday at Pueblo City Park with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Kent Denver’s Annika Berry. On Saturday morning, the Niwot senior will look to make the most of her second and final opportunity and win it all.
“Last year I felt very confident in my game, but I feel like I lacked some experience,” Sallee said. “So going into this year, I’m more aware that this is going to be a great matchup and I need to be prepared for a challenge. I’m really excited to tackle tomorrow and see how it goes.”
Blasting her way into the semifinals, Sallee did not drop a set in two matches on Thursday. Once she reached the semifinals, the Cougars senior leaned on the experience she gained last year to remain in complete control against a talented opponent. In Saturday’s championship match, Sallee will face Pine Creek senior Manoela Amantini Quintanilha.
“I’m approaching my matches with a different mentality,” Sallee said. “Every opponent is a new challenge and every match that I’ve had so far has been really fun. I want to keep that up.”
With Sallee as their leading point-scorer, the Cougars will head into the final day sitting fifth in the team competition with 32 points. They trail Cheyenne Mountain, which has a comfortable overall lead with 57 points, Palmer Ridge and Kent Denver, who are tied in second with 41 points, and fourth-place Pine Creek, which has 35 points.
Niwot junior Alys Pop will play for third place at No. 1 singles on Saturday. Senior Georgia Lang will also play for third at No. 3 singles.
For Longmont, the Trojans’ No. 1 doubles pair of junior Allison Brause and sophomore Stella Rulon rebounded from a first-round loss on Thursday to play their way back through the consolation bracket. The Trojans swept their first consolation match against Durango’s duo and won 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 against Mullen’s pair in the consolation semifinals.
On Saturday, Brause and Rulon will face Palmer Ridge’s Charlotte Hauke and Chelsea Young in the third-place match.
“It’s pretty cool,” Brause said. “It was really hot today, so it was rough. We’ve really kept a good attitude and we’ve had a positive energy the whole time. Even if we make a mistake, we keep high-fiving and just thinking about the next point.”
Rulon added, “I had no idea that this would happen. Obviously, our goal was to get to state but I had no idea that this would happen. To get this far is pretty cool. Once we really get it down during a match and we’re in the zone, we really communicate and do well together.”