DENVER — Ky Ecton had a tough path to return to the final. But she fought her way through it, earning every bit of her trip back.
The Poudre junior, runner-up in No. 1 Singles at the Class 5A girls tennis state tournament last season, won a marathon match against Mountain Vista senior Casey Zhong in Friday's semifinals. After dropping the first set 7-6, she rallied to win the final two 6-4 and 6-0.
The match lasted two-and-a-half hours.
"I don't like to listen to all the pressure," Ecton said of the expectation that she get back to the final. "I'm here to play tennis. I'm here to do what I like to do, and to have fun. And having my team behind me, just being like, 'You're just Ky,' it brings me back down to Earth."
Ecton actually had leads of 4-1 and 5-2 in the first set before Zhong rallied to win it.
"Casey played amazing," Ecton said. "(When she started to come back), I really couldn't do anything. She was playing awesome. But I was like, 'I can come back.'"
Ecton trailed 3-2 in the second set but eventually took a 4-3 lead before winning 6-4.
"Throughout my season, I've had quite a few three-setters at invitationals, so I know how to come back from losing the first set," Ecton added. "I was down 2-3, and I was like, 'Oh no.' Going up 4-3 was huge, and winning that second set really gave me confidence going into the third.
"I feel like once you go into the third set, it's pretty much a whole new match. You never know what's going to happen out there. I just kind of forgot about it and tried to restart."
In that third set, Ecton cruised to a 6-0 win to secure her spot in the final for a second-straight season. She will face a fellow junior in Smoky Hill's Anshika Singh.
Singh beat ThunderRidge freshman Veronika Bruetting 6-1, 6-2 in the semifinals as she seeks to become her school's first individual champion since 1987.
Team race tightens
The race for the 5A team championship this spring is one of the closest in recent memory.
Perennial power Cherry Creek entered the day atop the leaderboard, but at various times on Friday, Ponderosa and Mountain Vista took turns at the top.
After the second day of competition, the Bruins ended up in the team lead with 51 points. Mountain Vista is in second with 45, and Ponderosa (37 points) is third. Denver East (24 points) and defending champ Fairview (17) round out the top five.
Cherry Creek has three positions playing in finals on Saturday, while Mountain Vista and Ponderosa each have two. Mountain Vista and Ponderosa face one another in the No. 2 Singles final, and the No. 1 Doubles final.
Mountain Vista and Cherry Creek each also have players in contention in three third-place matches, and Ponderosa has one.
Cherry Creek and Mountain Vista are both in play for the overall championship on Saturday, while Ponderosa can finish as high as second.
Each individual championship is worth three points in the team race, and each third-place finish is worth two points.
- Ponderosa senior Claire Cox won her semifinal match 5-7, 6-3, 7-6 (6) at No. 2 singles. She was down 5-1 in the third set at one point. Cox will face Mountain Vista's Madi Allen in the final.
- Mountain Vista stayed in contention in the team race thanks to Casey Zhong's win in the No. 1 Singles consolation semifinals. She earned the Golden Eagles seven points with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Ponderosa's Hana Kimmey.
- All finals and third-place matches will begin at 9 a.m. on Saturday at Gates Tennis Center.