Regis Jesuit wins team championship at 5A boys tennis

(Ryan Casey/CHSAANow.com)

DENVER — On the dawn of the Class 5A boys state tennis tournament, a ripple of supporters in red and white lined the stands. They arrived at the Gates Tennis Center hoping to see Regis Jesuit clinch the program’s first team crown since 2010.

With only a couple of victories needed during the final matches, the Raiders held the upper hand on longstanding contender Cherry Creek by nine points at the start of Saturday’s final matches.

They earned those wins with a collection of single and double state champions, securing the team title with a final tally of 76-65 over the Bruins. Fairview was third with 29 points and Denver East finished fourth with 28.

Senior Kosta Garger (No. 2 singles over Austin Kattenhorn of Broomfield 6-0, 6-1), freshman Conor Kaczmarczyk (No. 3 singles over Cherry Creek’s Drew Miller 6-3, 4-6, 6-0), and Emilio Gonzalez-Cruz and Evan Nuss (No. 1 doubles over Fairview’s Beck Chrisbens and Brody Pinto 6-1, 6-2) all earned titles for Regis in their respective divisions.

Teammates Grigor Karakelyan and Phillip Albright won their third place match at No. 2 doubles.

“We achieved everything we wanted to achieve this year,” Regis coach Laura Jones said. “We have our two seniors (Garger, Nuss) who have been here many times, they have a state championship to take home. I’m really happy for them.”

 A blend of experience and youthful players on the rise proved to be a winning formula for the Raiders. Garger was especially eager to taste championships after runner-up showings in No. 3 doubles his freshman year and No. 2 singles last year.

“Winning a state championship was my goal for a long time and I’m just glad I finally pulled it off,” he said. “I’ve been pretty determined the whole year. I think the desire to win and just knowing I could do it, and using those past experiences, helped fuel the fire to get the team going and myself going.”

Gonzalez-Cruz and Nuss have each had storied careers as now winners of their third state crown (No. 2 doubles the previous two seasons). Nuss, a member of the doubles team with Garger his initial season, is a senior and Gonzalez-Cruz is a junior.

“It’s not like they’re flashy and it’s not like they’re the biggest or the strongest hitters,” Jones said. “They learned the game of doubles and they execute it like pros. They deserve it.”

Veterans like Nuss and Garger will be difficult to replace as they stepped in and made an immediate impact for the team donned in red and white, then capped their careers in championship fashion.

Even so, Regis coach Laura Jones will boast a high-level roster in 2019 as sophomore Morgan Schilling (No. 1 singles runner-up) and freshman Kaczmarczyk will return, as will Nathan Tolva and Jack Carbone (No. 4 doubles runner-up to Fossil Ridge’s Brady Elliott/John Shelby 7-5, 6-4, 7-6).

“How incredible it is to get a kid who is that poised and that mature,” Jones said of the talented first-year player who rallied back from a second set loss to defeat a Creek senior at No. 3 singles.

“We knew he was a great tennis player, but I had no idea how much poise and composure he was going to bring with him to this team. I’m so proud of him to beat Drew Hill, who we’ve played multiple times in this venue. I knew he was going to be a tough competitor, but Conor just came out and rocked that third set like there was no tomorrow.”

Rather than look ahead too much to what could be another special season next fall, Regis wanted to soak in and celebrate the school’s fourth team championship in boys tennis. The other winning years were 2010, 2000, and 1991.

“It’s been a journey,” Jones, whose first season at Regis was in 2010, said. “I feel like we’ve developed an entire reputation and just a great sense of family and team at Regis Jesuit. They’ve worked really hard with each other to get here today.”

Chatfield senior Christian Holmes made it back-to-back state titles at No. 1 singles with a winning tally of 7-5, 7-5 over Schilling. A season ago, he became the first Jeffco Public School winner in the top singles spot in the largest classification since 1996 (Wheat Ridge’s Bryan Knepper).

In the No. 3 doubles title match, the Denver East tandem of Jack Abbey and Barry Dechtman defeated Fairview’s Ryan Grayson and Adam Heilbronner 6-3, 6-4.

The Bruins’ Andrew Marocchi and Matt Batmunkh were victorious at No. 2 doubles over East’s Will Franks and George Weaver 6-1, 6-1, helping a storied Cherry Creek program finish second in the team standings. The Bruins have claimed a remarkable 42 championships, a state record.