Cherry Creek boys sweep to tennis title
Decades ago Cherry Creek's boys tennis team was nicknamed The Red Train Express.
Years have passed and not many people use the tag to identify the Bruins any longer, but Cherry Creek continues to dominate Colorado high school boys tennis.
The Bruins set a state tournament record with 98 points and swept all seven finals matches in capturing the Class 5A boys state tennis championship in the tournament held Oct. 10-12 at Gates Tennis Center in Denver.
It was the third consecutive state title for the Bruins and the 39th in the past 43 years. It marked the first time in 15 seasons that a team won all seven championship matches, and the Bruins were the last team to do that in the 1998 tournament.
“It's been quite a run,” said Cherry Creek coach Art Quinn.
Fairview, which trailed Creek 77-69 going into the final day, lost five of seven head-to-head finals matches to the Bruins. The Knights collected four points in playback matches and wound up in second place with 73 points.
Mountain Vista finished third with 46 points, the highest finish ever for a Highlands Ranch team in the state tournament.
Chaparral was honored with the sportsmanship award.
Quinn, an assistant coach for the past six seasons, took over the head coaching reins at Creek in late August from Kirk Price who was placed on an indefinite leave.
“So many things happened since the beginning of the year,” recalled Quinn. “My hat's off to the seniors that were leaders, the freshman who provided energy and everyone in between from parents, players and coaches.
“It's a special group of kids. This was my first year as head coach. It's a large, wonderful freshman class that will learn to be leaders. It's the beginning of something great.”
Eleven Creek players won first-place medals and added their names to the Bruins' long list of individual state champions. In 43 years of state tennis competition, Cherry Creek has crowned 303 individual state champions.
The 2013 state champions from Creek were senior Zach Fryer at No. 1 singles, senior Connor McPherson at No. 2 singles and freshman Ethan Hillis at No. 3 singles.
Junior Harshil Dwivedi and senior Jake Miller captured the No. 1 doubles title while sophomore Erin Norwood and senior Matt Gross were the No. 2 doubles champs. Junior Teller Hoskins and senior Ben Schlichting won at No. 3 doubles and the freshman duo of Jacob Bendaline and Wyatt Dale earned the No. 4 doubles first place medal.
Fryer, who played in USTA national events last season, won his third state championship and this season at No. 1 singles with a 6-4, 6-4 triumph over Fairview's Ignatius Castelino.
“I love the atmosphere here, and then to help the team as well,” said Fryer. “It's a lot different than playing USTA tournaments because it's all individual. Here you have your team behind you and supporting you and you also want to win for your team because you don't want to let them down.”
Fryer, who took a medical timeout between sets to have his ankle wrapped, fell behind 2-1 in the second set but used accurate forehand shots and won service in the 10th game to win the match.
“I remember from playing him in a match earlier in the season I made a lot of shots and eventually I wore him down and he started making a few more errors,” added Fryer. “That was exactly where I wanted to be, serving it out. I tried to make a lot of first serves to put some pressure on him.”
McPherson defeated Mountain Vista freshman Ben Antonsen, 6-1, 6-2, to secure his fourth state title. The left-hander won at No. 3 doubles as a freshman and sophomore and took the No. 2 singles crown last year.
“I felt like I played great,” he said. “I had to play good. He was a worthy opponent.”
Dwivedi and Miller were also repeat winners. Dwivedi was part of the state champion No. 4 doubles team last season and Miller won at No. 2 doubles.
Antonsen's runner-up finish paced a strong showing from Mountain Vista. The Golden Eagles had six individuals collect fourth-place medals.
Vignesh Senthivel was fourth in No. 1 singles, Michael Shin at No. 3 singles, Vamsi Senthivel and Austin Gruszczynski at No. 1 doubles and Enzo Ortiz and Kobe Holdren at No. 3 doubles.
“I'm very proud,” said Mountain Vista coach Jim Flanigan, who was once an assistant coach at Cherry Creek. “Third place is very good. It definitely helped that we won our regional. We got that second-place finisher in every regional, which let our nerves get out of the way a little bit. We had a lot of matches we could win early on and they took care of the matches they could win.
“When we got to Creek you saw the juggernaut that is Creek. I mean, they beat everybody. I wish we could have had a few more matches against Fairview but that's just the way the brackets worked out. It seemed like we were playing Creek in a lot of the semifinals.”
Results from the Class 5A state tennis tournament held at Gates Tennis Center:
Team scores — Cherry Creek 98, Fairview 73, Mountain Vista 46, Regis Jesuit 22, Chatfield 20, Fossil Ridge 19, Grand Junction 13, Monarch 10, Denver East 8, Arapahoe 5, Legend 3, Boulder 2, Fruita Monument 2, Ralston Valley 2, Castle View 1, Chaparral 1, Cherokee Trail 1, Columbine 1, Legacy 1, Rock Canyon 1.
No. 1 singles — Zach Fryer, Cherry Creek def. Ignatius Castelino, Fairview, 6-4, 6-4.
No. 2 singles — Connor McPherson, Cherry Creek def. Ben Antonsen, Mountain Vista, 6-1, 6-2.
No. 3 singles — Ethan Hillis, Cherry Creek def. Tommy Mason, Fairview, 6-4, 6-4.
No. 1 doubles — Harshil Dwivedi-Jake Miller, Cherry Creek def. Brock DeHaven-Max Petrak, Fairview, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.
No. 2 doubles — Erin Norwood-Matt Gross, Cherry Creek def. Randall Ball-Andrew Pollack, Fairview, 7-6 (3), 6-3.
No. 3 doubles — Teller Hoskins-Ben Schlichting, Cherry Creek def. Steven Bummer-Truett Davis, Regis Jesuit, 6-0, 6-3.
No. 4 doubles — Jacob Bendaline-Wyatt Dale, Cherry Creek def. Charlie Strand-Jake Kearney, Fairview, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1.