PUEBLO – Anna Sallee finally did it.
After finishing runner-up last season, the Niwot senior returned to the Cougars’ No. 2 singles spot in 2022 determined to claim the title that eluded her at the end of a three-set finals match in 2021. On Saturday at Pueblo City Park, Sallee completed her mission and won the Class 4A 2 singles championship.
Her most recent and final attempt at winning gold also went three sets. Only this time, Sallee was prepared to fight until the end and pulled out an epic 6-3, 5-7, 7-5 victory over Pine Creek’s Manoela Amantini Quintanilha in the finals.
“It was another challenging match and I think my experience really helped this year, knowing what happened last year and having that mental edge to tell myself, ‘You know what, every point counts and this can go as long as it’s going to go, but I’m in it until the end,’” Sallee said. “Part of me is also like, ‘Did that just happen?’ But I’m really proud of the way I played and she (Amantini Quintanilha) is a really great player, so I’m really happy to win.
“What helped me win it was that I knew that if I lost, I wasn’t going to have another chance. This was my last chance, so I decided that I might as well enjoy it. I started smiling in that third set and I was really enjoying playing. I started to figure some stuff out and that helped me win.”
Sallee’s individual title helped the Cougars piece together a fifth-place finish as a team. Their 35 team points was just behind fourth-place Pine Creek’s 40 points. Cheyenne Mountain won the team title, the Red-Tailed Hawks all-time leading 24th, with 66 points, and Palmer Ridge tied with Kent Denver for second with 46 points.
Niwot junior Alys Pop placed fourth, falling 7-6, 6-1 to Pine Creek’s Ava Lewis in the No. 1 singles third-place match on Saturday. Cougars senior Georgia Lang also placed fourth, losing 6-2, 6-1 in the No. 3 singles third-place match against Cheyenne Mountain’s Hailey Javernick.
For Longmont, this year’s state tournament was a coming-out party of sorts for the Trojans’ No. 1 doubles pair of Allison Brause and Stella Rulon.
Brause, a junior, and Rulon, a sophomore, fell 6-4, 6-0 to Palmer Ridge’s Charlotte Hauke and Chelsea Young in the third-place match on Saturday, but the Trojans duo far exceeded expectations and everything seemed to fall into place once they hit the courts at state.
“I think we knew that they were very athletic, we knew their potential, and they showed their potential,” Longmont head coach Michael Merz said of the pair. “They’re a fairly new team and they’ve just been playing together this season. It’s taken them some time to get used to it and they’ve had some tough matches and tough losses, but they really put it together today. It was fun watching them.
“They played to their potential and I think they saw that. Usually at state, it kind of comes crumbling down a little bit because of all the nerves. So, to see them succeed was really awesome.”
Overall, the Trojans placed 10th with five team points.