GREELEY — The volleys, break points, and aces are never more important than during the final week of the season. After all, this is the state tournament. The stakes are just higher.
Aspen senior Mary Williams understands the significance of facing the very best Class 3A girls tennis has to offer.
“It’s cool to see new girls that you’ve never seen before, especially since I live in such a small town,” she said. “It’s cool to see girls from Denver and all over.”
Out of all the No. 1 singles players in 3A, only 16 earn berths to state. By late afternoon on Friday, the final four was decided on the courts of Centennial Park. Williams was one of the players still alive in the championship bracket, advancing with a bye in the first round and a quarterfinals win over Grace Li of D’Evelyn 6-4, 6-2.
“It was really fun playing her,” Williams said. “She’s a freshman I think. It was really cool playing someone new.”
Li, a skilled first-year player for the Jaguars, challenged Williams a bit in the opening set, winning several points. Williams, several inches taller and more powerful as a senior, eventually prevailed. The speed of her shots was difficult for Li to handle, especially as the match wore on.
Williams is now two wins away from claiming a state championship, but the competition only stiffens. Mae Thorp, the 2018 state runner-up, is her next opponent.
“She’s in my region and we played two times this year,” Williams said. “We even played in the finals at regionals, so we know each other super well. We have won about an equal amount of times against one another. She’s a super hard-hitter too, so it’ll be good to have pace on the ball.”
Each time the seniors dueled this season, Williams was the winner. She knows how talented Thorp (from Steamboat Springs) is, though.
“Last year she beat me in the finals at regionals,” Williams said.
In the other semifinal matchup, Trisha Somasundaram, a senior for Peak To Peak, will face Colorado Springs Christian sophomore Jules Thompson.
Somasundaram was impressive in the opening rounds of a two-day tournament, defeating St. Mary’s freshman Ellie Hartman 6-0, 6-1 and Lutheran’s Sara Larson 6-1, 6-1. She is the defending state champion.
But, Williams is a major threat. Aspen’s No. 1 singles player all four years, she is a four-time state qualifier. Her best showing, so far, is 3rd place in 2017. That may change Saturday, but she’s not the only Aspen athlete leaving her mark on the state tournament.
The Skiers are one of the top teams with eight points, but Peak to Peak is in the lead with 18. D’Evelyn (15), Colorado Academy (10), and Dawson (10) are near the top of the standings as well.
“It’s been super cool getting nine of the 11 girls to come down (as qualifiers) and everyone’s done pretty well,” Williams said. “I think its super cool coming to Greeley or Denver and making an impact.”
Aspen’s No. 3 doubles team of Quinn Ramberg and Virginia Tassi roared to the semifinals with wins over groups from St. Mary’s 6-1, 6-1 and Vanguard 6-1, 6-2.
The Aspen group, clad in red and white jerseys, has a strong contingent but Peak to Peak won the team crown a year ago and a repeat looks possible. Somasundaram has a twin sister, Trini, who was the two-singles champion last year. She earned a bid to the semifinals with straight set victories over Tory Jensa (Fountain Valley) and Charlotte Pulido (Colorado Academy).
“I’m excited for tomorrow,” Trini said. “I have a lot of nerves too. It helps because I know I can achieve it though. I have that experience and confidence.”
Peak to Peak advanced their No. 1, No. 2, and No. 4 doubles groups to the semifinals as well. Sophomore Tiffany Tran reached the final four of the No. 3 singles division for the Pumas. She’ll face Elizabeth van der Torre, an undefeated player with a 12-0 season record.
Van der Torre is plenty familiar with Centennial Park as her school, University High, is just over four miles away.