DENVER — Regis Jesuit boys tennis has played itself into prime position, and now the Raiders have a shot at their first state championship since 2010.
Regis has players set to play for a title in five of seven positions in Saturday's Class 5A boys tennis state finals. The two-day performance has the Raiders leading the team race with 65 points after the second day of competition at Gates Tennis Center.
Cherry Creek, a perennial contender, sits in second with 56 points.
"We knew we were going to have an opportunity, and I feel like the kids came through," said Regis Jesuit coach Laura Jones. "They're doing what they need to do when it comes down to it."
Playing for a championship on Saturday for Regis Jesuit:
- Sophomore Morgan Schilling (No. 1 singles)
- Senior Kosta Garger (No. 2 singles)
- Freshman Conor Kaczmarczyk (No. 3 singles)
- Emilio Gonzalez-Cruz and Evan Nuss (No. 1 doubles)
- Nathan Tolva and Jack Carbone (No. 4 doubles)
In addition, Grigor Karakelyan and Phillip Albright will play for third place at No. 2 doubles.
Notably, Schilling has a rematch with Chatfield's Christian Holmes in the 5A No. 1 singles final. Holmes beat Schilling 6-4, 6-4 in the first round of last year's tournament en route to winning the championship.
The Chatfield senior is seeking to become the first repeat champion at 5A No. 1 singles since 2012.
Schilling beat Cherry Creek's George Cavo 6-4, 6-2 on Friday to advance to the final.
"He's felt like all year he could come back and make a statement," Jones said. "And I think he made a great statement today and beat George in straight sets. He was the one who had the most pressure on him as far as the team title went, because he was the only one who was facing a Creek opponent.
"So when you're in charge of your own destiny, and you can do that for your team and your teammates, that's pretty cool that he was able to achieve that."
Jones pointed to Regis Jesuit's experience at this tournament as a key to their success this season. The Raiders were fifth in 2015, fourth in 2016, and third last season.
"Nothing preps them as well for this place as being here in the past, the experience of being here," Jones said. "Kids like Kosta Garger, who has been here for four years now, and been in the semis, if not the finals, all four of those years. And never had an individual championship, and never had a team championship. So he's hungry, he's feeding the fire."
Or Regis Jesuit's No. 1 doubles team of Emilio Gonzalez-Cruz and Evan Nuss, who have won No. 2 doubles each of the past two seasons. They again find themselves in a final.
"It's not because they're the biggest hitters, or the strongest guys, it's because they just execute well," Jones said of the duo. "And they've been here before, and they know what it's like. And it's because of their tutelage of the kids that are coming up, that I feel like even my younger guys are better prepared."
Cherry Creek has two positions into the finals, including a head-to-head matchup at No. 3 singles between Kaczmarczyk of Regis Jesuit and Cherry Creek's Drew Hill. The Bruins also have five positions in third-place matches, and made up a lot of points during the playback rounds on Friday.
If they win their remaining matches, the Bruins can score a possible 72 points. That means that Regis Jesuit can claim the crown by winning three matches on Saturday — or by winning two, if that includes the head-to-head matchup between the two teams at No. 3 singles.
Fairview, the defending champion, currently sits in third place with 29 points.