By: Kim Greason
Disclaimer: The following is not to be viewed as a professional opinion, just more a causal overview from a veteran high school Coach who hopes to provide some insight to the 5A girls season and upcoming postseason.
Much of the results/opinions stem from MaxPreps standings and general knowledge of programs and players.
Tennis doesn’t have a recurring ranking poll, nor does it seem to receive the same amount of press as its spring counterparts for some reason. Whatever it may be, the teams and players are deserving of some recognition as we near the end of the season. I encourage or challenge a coach in 4A and 3A to throw their hat in the "amature review" ring so our players/teams can get the coverage the deserve.
- Defending champion: Fairview
- Teams to watch in the team race: Fairview, Cherry Creek, Ponderosa, Fossil Ridge, Mountain Vista
- Dark horses/spoilers: Denver East, Chatfield, Poudre, Heritage, Fort Collins, Rock Canyon, Regis Jesuit, Ralston Valley
Unlike the past decade (or decades), where you could easily say the girls Class 5A state title was a one- or two-horse race, many coaches feel the 2017 5A title is up in the air once again.
Like 2016, the team title could be decided by who knocks out who, and who has the most positions left standing in the end in addition to those head to head showdowns. In the name of excitement and competition, hopefully gone are the days where it is one or two schools dominating the finals, and everyone else is playing for third and fourth.
Of course, defending champion and oft runner-up Fairview and 33-time state champion Cherry Creek are the perennial favorites, however this year you can’t count out schools like senior-laden Ponderosa and battle-tested Mountain Vista and Fossil Ridge.
Looking at some tournament results, Cherry Creek won its own tournament and tied for first with Cheyenne Mountain in the Cheyenne Mountain Invite. Ponderosa placed third in the same tournament and Fossil finished fourth in both the Cheyenne Mountain and Creek tournament. Mountain Vista dominated the 16-team Western Slope Invite, with Poudre placing second and Heritage third. Denver East and Mountain Vista tied for second in the Phil Krouse Tournament, behind 4A power Cheyenne Mountain.
There seems to be more parity in girls tennis these days and that is a good thing. Ponderosa won the Continental League Championship with an undefeated record and strong performance in singles, but their doubles depth and experience have helped push the team to the top of the conference. Ponderosa knows if there is any year to get it done, this is the one.
Other teams looking to play spoiler (should they advance the numbers needed through Regional play) are Denver Conference champion Denver East, Continental’s Heritage and Rock Canyon, Jeffco's Chatfield and Ralston Valley, and the Front Range teams of Fort Collins and Poudre.
Rangeview comes out at the top team in the East Metro Athletic Conference and Doherty is undefeated in the Colorado Springs Metro conference.
One look at the dual results and you may see some lopsided team scores, but when you dig into the box scores you will find many matches were decided with three-set matches and/or 10-point super tiebreaks (in lieu of a full third set). In other instances there were many 4-3 dual results in the Front Range and Continental leagues, which would lead one to believe that this may be the most exciting team race in years.
Mountain Vista, Rock Canyon and Cherry Creek roll in with some serious power and familiar faces at No. 1 and No. 2 singles. But all teams know you can't win the title with three strong singles players anymore due to the team point structure. So depth is key in the team race.
No. 1 Singles players to watch
Once the regionals are completed this coming week/weekend, you will see a No. 1 singles draw that rivals some of the best USTA Jr. tournaments in Colorado. Nationally, Intermountain and State ranked players will fill most of the 16 spots making for some exciting match ups.
- Returning impact players: Anshika Singh (Smoky Hill), Ky Ecton (Poudre), Sarah Fleming (Fruita), Casey Zhong (Mountain Vista), Micha Handler (Cherry Creek), Sophie Pearson (Fairview)
- Freshmen impact players: Meghna Chowdhury (Rock Canyon), Hana Kimmey (Ponderosa), Veronika Bruetting (ThunderRidge), Natalie Hamil (Fort Collins), Olivia Desso (Lakewood)
While No. 1 singles is always a battle, the waterfall format favors team play over individual accolades, so some players will face each other in Regional play next week. Most notably in Region 2, you have Poudre's Ky Ecton and Cherry Creek's Micha Handler most likely to fight it out for the championship.
While in Region 3, you have three of the state's top players in Singh, Fleming and Chowdhury all battling for the two tickets to the State Championship.
This is preview is obviously written prior to any Regional play happening, and as any coach knows, anything can happen on any given day. Just like March Madness basketball, there can be upsets and other circumstances that alter the outcome of Regional play.
The advice to all players, those mentioned and those that were not, go out there next week and leave it all on the court. Let your racquet and results do the talking. And most importantly, have fun.
To all those supporting your athlete or team in the next few weeks please keep in mind, playoff pressure will be intensified and emotions heightened, seasons will come to an end for some and tears will be shed.
Just as CHSAA would like at any high school athletic competition: Let the players play, it's their time. Let the coaches coach, it's their job. Let the umpires make the calls when necessary, it's what they are trained to do. And as a spectator, do just that. Spectate. If you must cheer, make sure it is for good shots instead of others errors.
When the match ends be there for a hug or high five for your athlete/player, and in some cases, both will suffice.
Best of luck to all next week.
Kim Greason is the girls tennis coach at Ralston Valley.