BROOMFIELD — Molly McGarey didn’t expect her first set of the season to end in a war. Especially not when she began it up 5-0.
The Holy Family senior, who plays for the Tigers’ varsity 2 squad and sometimes swings up to varsity 1, had just enough in the tank to put away Broomfield sophomore Nina Eslinger-Fernandez in a 7-6(2) tiebreak. She rode that last-minute surge through the second set, winning 6-2 to put away Eslinger-Fernandez for good in their No. 1 singles duel at Broomfield High School on Monday afternoon.
“That was definitely a mental game more than a physical game, I would say,” McGarey said. “It was just at the end knowing. ‘OK, I’m nearing a tiebreaker. If that happens, do I have what it takes to get through that tiebreaker?’ And I guess I did.”
It was quite the way to begin their season.
Eslinger-Fernandez, who had just suffered the loss of her dog Hunter, didn’t want to let him down. She channeled him in the first set, storming all the way back to make McGarey work for every single point. She had never played a singles match before this chilly, windy afternoon.
It opened her eyes to what solo play would take, and McGarey was just the opponent she needed to illuminate her.
“I just kind of saw the level that I have to be at. I have to be focused, you know, stay on my feet. I can’t just dilly dally. I have to be there,” Eslinger-Fernandez said. “She made me move. … It was really fun to play against her.”
The match kicked off what both ladies hope will be a successful season, even if the weather wasn’t always cooperating. McGarey believed she excelled more because of the cooler temperatures, which she’ll undoubtedly see more of as spring begins.
Eslinger-Fernandez, on the other hand, hopes her offseason work on her strokes and serves will carry her toward some varsity starts once she gets more into her groove. After all, she began her tennis career just a year earlier.
“First match in the season, so right out of the gate, it was a battle,” McGarey said. “I definitely think it’s a really good perspective of how do you battle in matches like that and come back when you think that you might lose that? How do you keep pushing even when it’s difficult, especially if you’re playing an opponent that’s really good and can hang there with you?”
Now they know.