CHERRY HILLS VILLAGE/LITTLETON — Both Morgan Cohen and Lindsey Pond had the same message for Cherry Creek girls tennis coach Chris Jacob.
“They each came up to me and said they wanted their (playback) matches to mean something,” Jacob said.
Cohen and Pond got their wish, and they didn’t let the opportunity pass them by. Both won their third-place matches in No. 3 and No. 2 singles, respectively, and those playback points wound up being the difference in the race for the Class 5A state team championship as Cherry Creek won its 16th-straight title, edging out Fairview for the top spot, 83-76.
“The girls really deserve this, they worked so hard,” said Jacob after a jam-packed day that saw play on May 11 start at Gates Tennis Center and finish indoors in the tennis bubble at Littleton Golf and Tennis Center. “We finished third at the Cheyenne Mountain tournament and I think that was a rallying point for our season. The girls used that as motivation down the stretch.
“There seems to always be something unique about each of the titles that we win, so that they all stand out in their own way. Definitely played a condensed schedule and then having to move indoors to finish is something that usually doesn’t happen, but it worked out for us.”
Pond, a senior, was involved in one of several matches that were forced indoors due to the rain. She said that she knew the importance of her match, which she won against Chatfield’s Madi Mamaghani in straight sets, 6-3, 6-1.
“I think we all felt the pressure,” Pond said. “We really relied on each other to stay motivated and focused on what we had to do.”
Cherry Creek won three individual titles on the day, as Kelli Woodman took home the No. 1 singles title, while the No. 3 doubles team of Mariah Smith and Mia Hoover and No. 4 doubles team of Chloe Theobald and Julia Mannino each claimed the top spot.
“Winning a state title is something that bonds these girls with the teams that came before them,” Jacob said.
Woodman wins No. 1 singles title
Woodman, a junior, always had one thought in mind as she took the court in 2012.
Each match would bring her a step closer to her ultimate goal of a state title, a title that she saw slip through her fingers in 2011.
“I was a point away last year and it got away from me,” Woodman said. “I was determined to get back and finish this year.”
Woodman faced a familiar foe in Pine Creek freshman Nicole Kalhorn in the final. The match featured two athletes firing on all cylinders.
“She’s a good friend,” Woodman said of Kalhorn. “I knew it was going to be a tough match.”
After winning the first set 6-2, Woodman overcame a bit of adversity in the second, as she rallied from 3-1 and 5-4 deficits and ultimately won the set, and match, 7-5. The championship-winning point came courtesy of a blistering one-handed forehand down the line.
“It’s so rewarding to win this,” Woodman said. “I worked really hard this year to get back to this point, on this court, and to win the state title, it’s just an amazing feeling.”
Woodman and Kalhorn played many long points, as both stayed close to the baseline, choosing to trade groundstrokes and wait for the opponent to make a mistake. When either would charge the net, the results were usually good, with Woodman slicing some pretty cross-court volleys and Kalhorn chopping balls out of the mid-air with a forceful two-handed forehand or backhand.
“We know each other’s game so well,” Woodman said. “It made for a great challenge trying to figure out how to hit shots past her.”
Bruins’ No. 4 doubles team battles back to win title
One game away from their state championship aspirations coming to an end, Theobald and Mannino refused to give in.
“We never thought we were going to lose the match,” Theobald said.
Down 5-4 in the third set to Fairview, Theobald and Mannino won the next three games to take the set, 7-5, and win the state championship in three sets, 6-4, 6-7 (4), 7-5.
“We just kept repeating the three F’s that the coaches tell us: forward, feet and focus,” said Mannino, a freshman. “That kept us going and it’s so exciting to win (a state championship).”
Littleton, Heritage and Arapahoe results
Heritage finished ninth at the 5A state tournament, with Arapahoe two spots behind. Littleton also took part in the tournament and finished outside the top-15.
The Eagles were paced by the No. 4 doubles team of freshman Emma Schilling and sophomore Alannah Gates, who finished third thanks to their victory over Fossil Ridge in the third-place match, 6-2, 6-1.
The No. 3 doubles team of Rachel Zook and Mollie Gopsill won one playback match against Grand Junction, 6-4, 6-4, while the No. 2 doubles team of Erin Beery and Emily Kennel won its first round match against Chaparral, 7-6 (5), 6-2, but lost to Fairview in the next round.
Arapahoe’s No. 2 doubles team of Caroline Blakley and Michaela Zafferani won its first round match against Columbine, 6-2, 6-1, then lost to Fairview in the quarterfinals. They won a playback match against Monarch, but then lost to Poudre. Abby Cruz and Laura Wilms at No. 3 doubles won their first round match against Mountain Vista, 6-3, 7-6 (8), but lost their next match.
The No. 4 doubles team of Claire McDonald and Brenna Palazzo topped Chatfield in three sets in the opening round, and then dropped the next match. Elly Fryberger lost her opening match at No. 1 singles, as did the No. 1 doubles team of Hailey Johnson and Sarah Deming. Katie Pearson won Littleton’s lone match of the state tournament, as she defeated Sheridan Haider of ThunderRidge in the first round, 6-4, 6-1. Pearson lost in the quarterfinals to Denver East.