DENVER — Fairview tennis fans should have expected that the Knights’ first-ever Class 5A team state tournament dual would be mired with drama.
After all, the 10th-seeded Knights played in one of the toughest matchups of the first round when they squared off with No. 7 Denver East at City Park. It all came down to Caden Bell’s No. 1 singles match after the other lines split 3-3.
He emerged victorious after a three-set, four-hour marathon over Denver East’s Trevor Hajek. Both teams converged near the court to loudly cheer on their players in a true high-stakes environment.
“I’m really proud of myself. That last set, I kept it together and composed. He’s a really good competitor so I’m just really happy to get this one,” Bell said. “I was taking deep breaths, trying to slow myself down, go back to the net and I was counting in my head. That was probably the most nervous I’ve been for a tennis match.”
Bell came out on top in a competitive first set that saw a 6-4 final score before Hajek claimed the second with a 7-6 showdown. Then, when Hajek began making little mental mistakes in the third frame, Bell capitalized on his way to a 6-1 master class.
The doubles lines stepped up against tough competition as Charlie Gomulka and Jake Boston won at No. 2 doubles (4-6, 7-6, 6-0), Theo Myers and Loic Masters battled out at No. 3 doubles (6-4, 6-7, 6-2) and Cecil Carroll and Ian Schwartz took it home at No. 4 doubles (6-4, 7-6 (7-5)).
Now, the Knights will move on to the second round to take No. 2 Valor Christian, who swept No. 15 Fort Collins earlier in the day.
“I think (the team state tournament) is really good preparation,” Bell said. “I mean, these are the best players in the state. Everyone’s fighting hard. I’m just happy to be out there.”
Monarch holds up against strong Grandview squad
Monarch, which entered the team tournament with the No. 9 seed, endured one of the toughest competitions of the first round when it traveled all the way out to Grandview to take on the eighth-seeded Wolves.
Up until that point, the Coyotes hadn’t lost a single dual but faltered in the final match at Grandview in a 4-3 setback. Senior captain Callum Conaghan poured every drop of sweat he had into his No. 2 singles match, as he went on to win 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.
He enjoyed the new team dual championship format and hopes that the competition will only sharpen him for regionals next week.
“It’s really cool. I like it,” Conaghan said. “It’s just another tournament and it’s a new environment. It’s kind of cool to still have both the individual state plus this new one because there’s more tennis and it brings out a more competitive part of the best part of high school tennis, which is the dual matches, because you’re rooting for your teammates.
“It definitely shows us what we need to work on. Whether it be in the actual physical game or on the mental side.”
Conaghan received a little help from his doubles teammates, as Brodik Howe and Garrett Winklebauer defeated the Wolves in their 1 doubles match at 7-6 (19-17), 3-6, 6-2. Ben Willcutt and Aiden Swett took it home in a quick 4 doubles match to win 6-4, 6-1.
Monarch certainly will be a major threat in the regional tournaments as it hopes to send as many boys as possible to state.
Boulder falls to a tough Regis team
Boulder raised the bar this season, ending 6-3 in regular-season dual play before going head-to-head with No. 3 Regis Jesuit at the Colorado Athletic Club at Inverness on Wednesday. The Raiders, however, proved too tough to handle for the 14th-seeded Panthers.
Even though they lost 7-0, they still managed a few strong performances from No. 1 singles player Danny Benjamin and No. 2 singles man Ezra Doherty. Both went to tie breaks in the third set.
Benjamin, a senior, lost his first set 7-6 and bounced back in the second to win 6-3 before losing the tie break 12-10.
“It was a tough battle,” Benjamin said. “Mostly, it was like the way I played him just like a week ago and it went to a third set, 10-point tie break as well. It just didn’t go my way this time. I think I played pretty well. I’ve just got to stay mentally tough through everything. It doesn’t matter how much you’re down. I’ve got to keep fighting and just trust myself, trust my swings. I know I can hang with these guys. I just got to play my game.”